Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lonnie Franklin, Jr., "Grim Sleeper" Penalty Phase - Day 3, Part II

Lonnie Franklin, Jr, early on in his murder trial.
Photo Credit: Pool Camera, LA Times, Al Seib

Note: This entry has not been edited yet for clarity and spelling. 
T&T Case coverage and Media Links HERE.

Monday May 16, 2016
1:35 PM
I forgot to mention in the morning session that DDA Beth Silverman's parents are here in the gallery today.

There is a hearing in another case that is trying to set a date for sentencing. It's a woman defendant. She doesn't want to wait until September to be sentenced. She wants it sooner. A date is picked and the hearing is over.

I see one of the prosecutors take one of the people's big 4-5" thick white binders that hold their case and photos, over to where the mainstream media is sitting in the far back corner. Two reporters take photos of some pages in the binder with their cell phones.

Over in the ante chamber, one of the prosecutors is having a chat with their investigator, Detective Dupree. All of a sudden I hear a voice from the ante chamber say, "How did she find that out?" I don't know who "she" is or what "that" is either. It was just interesting to hear.

Back in the gallery, when the second reporter is taking their photo of pages, the bailiff sees them take a photo. The bailiff appears to be upset about cell phones being used inside the courtroom to take photos. I see the bailiff go over to the prosecution table and have a chat about what he just observed.

Morning Session Cross Examination
In the morning session, defense attorney Dale Atherton cross examined the two detectives. The questioning for retired detective Billy Smalling, who was the lead investigator in the death of Sharon Dismuke, centered around what time he and the coroner's criminalists arrived and if the scene was disturbed before he arrived. There were also questions about the collection of the carpet covering the body, shoes and whether there was a sexual assault kit collected. The prosecution redirected the testimony by having the detective refresh his memory by looking and the crime scene log and the evidence log. Atherton and the people went back and forth with cross and redirect with questions about whether there was DNA analysis back in 1984 and what was the sexual assault kit used for if there was no DNA testing.

LAPD Detective Gregory McKnight, who investigated the murder of Georgia Mae Thomas, was questioned whether he knew a piece of newspaper with blood on it was forensically examined and if it was still in evidence today. There were questions about several castings taken of a tire track impression that was performed at the scene and if the castings ever led to any suspect. He was asked if the defects in Thomas's shirt line up to the gunshot wounds in her chest. Detective McKnight testified that he cannot say the holes line up exactly. There are also questions about the sexual assault kit and whose responsibility it was to order one for the victim and whether he knew if the kit had been analyzed or not. McKnight stated he would be the wrong person to ask about the analysis.

On redirect, the prosecution pointed out that the castings would have no evidentiary value without a tire to compare to.

1:53 PM
The people call their next witness. DDA Rizzo presents the witness.

Tina Saunders is Sharon Dismuke's younger sister. Sharon was older by six years. Tina was 15 years old at the time of her sister's death. Tina has tow sisters who live out of state and two sisters here. Sharon was number 3 in line and Saunders was the baby of the family.

They shared a bedroom together with one other sister. She's asked what her sister was like.

She was a practical joker. We fought a lot because she liked to play jokes on me. I liked to jump into my bed bed. One day she played a joke on me and put a skate under my pillow when I jumped into bed. ... She was very smart. Very strong willed. Very strong personality, but also very sensitive. She was a really good person, a really good heart.
Would you say she was supportive of you?
Is there an instance of when she protected you that stands out in your mind?
I caught myself having a boyfriend and were were playing around and he got rough. He left a mark on my leg. Sharon  knocked on his door and chewed him out good. He came over and apologized. He said my sister was crazy but he never did that again.

They did things together when they were younger.

We roller skated, bicycled and went to the movies a lot.
What was her favorite thing to do?
She liked to be on her bike and spent a lot of time with cousins. But she was on her bike a lot. ... She was very much a free spirit.

In your own family, did you get together a lot?
We did. ... Everything was typical for our holidays.
What do you remember most?
How much she used to sing to us. ... She would sing at night to us.
She would sing you to sleep?
You remember her voice?
Very much.

What were Sharon's hopes and dreams? Did she share them with you.
We didn't even get a chance. She left the house at an early age. She didn't get along with my stepfather. ... she was gone by the time I was 15.
Did you look up to her?
I did. I knew that she was strugglilng. I knew that she wanted to do better.
What were the things she faced?
I know she did drugs. I don't know what kind.

Who was the closest to Sharon?
I would have to say it was me.
Did she reach out to you at times, at low times whe she was struggling?
She would just ... just inform me not to do drugs.

She was trying to help me do homework. But I could tell that she was off, that she was on something and wasn't really able to help me. And she just pulled me into her and she said, "Don't you ever do drugs, or I'll jsut kill you." ... It was at that time, it made me realize that it was deeper than I thought it was.

How did you hear about her death?
Two detectives same to the house and told us.
Who was home?
Me and my mom.
What was your reaction?
I was just, in shock, um. ..
I looked over at my mom.
I can hear the pain in Tina's voice as she answers this question. She turns toward the judge and pauses. Then she takes a tissue. My eyes are welling up listening to her remember hearing about her sister's death.

And my mom was pretty much on the floor at that point. And I just grabbed and held onto her.
To try to comfort her?
I wasn't ... There was so much going on in my household at that point. I hated to see her have to deal with something like that. It was a lot. It was just a lot.

And what about your other sisters?
They were not there. We had to call them and get them there. ... It was jsut total devastation. Our house was just dismantled. Just taken apart.
Did the house ever get rebuilt again?

The witness shakes her head .

My mom ... when my sister died it almost killed her. My mother, she was in therapy for years, well into my adulthood. I was 15. I felt like I lost my mom and my sister. She was there physically but she didn't have much to give. It just about killed me.

She can't be here today. She can't go through it.
She can't face it?
She can't.
It's hard. I don't think I dealt with it at that time. I was more concerned about my mom. I didn't want to break down and her her to worry about me on top of that. But it hurts. It never leaves. And it's very deep.

Because it's your sister?
Right. Because it's yoru sister and because you can't ever imagine it happen to you. I believe that when they said it was my sister they found, I held out hope until I saw her in the casket, and I couldn't hold out hope anymore.

I just thought, maybe, if it was just a one percent chance they had the wrong person, maybe it's not her. I just ... I just had hope in spite of what they had been telling us. I believed that my sister was going to come home.

Did you have to go to the coroner to identify her?
So you saw her at the funeral home?
No. I didn't see any of that. I didn't go because I refused to accept that she moved on.

Tina sobs.

She doesn't do anything special for her sister. She doesn't talk about her sister unless she has to.

It's a source of pain for me. I talk about her a little here and there, but her death is something that I don't talk about.
What do you remember most when you think of her.
My sister just wanted to make sure that I did better than she did and I remember she wanted [to] be there to protect me.
Do you talk to her now?
I do.
Do you tell her what you're doing and making her proud?
I talk to her a lot actually, I do.
I'd like to show you a couple photos.

There are two photos. There is one of her sister Sharon when she's a little girl and a photo of her a bit later, in her mid teens about.

Yes, that's my sister.
Do you know when that was taken?
I don't know if I remember that.
[The next photo.] My sister. It lookes like a picture she took at school. .. It looks like junior high.

Another photo is presented of her sister.

That was taken at my 9th grade graduation.
Judge Kennedy: And that's your sister?

No cross examination. It was very sad listening to Tina testify. The people call their next witness. DDA Silverman presents the witness.


Did you adopt a baby that belonged to Valerie McCorvy?
How old is he?
He's 16.

He was two when he was adopted.

Did you know her prior to her death?

The people present two photos. The witness identifies them as Valerie.

What kind of person was Valerie?
Happy, friendly, funny, smart.
Yes, very.

Another photo.

Who's that?
Valerie and Matthew in the hospital. She had just given birth.

Another photo.

Valerie and Matthew once she left the hospital. That was at her aunt's house.

In this photo, you can see how beautiful she is.  The next photo is of Matthew in a cap and gown. He was graduating from kindergarden.

Did you dress him that day?
At some point did you tell Matthew or someone tell Matthew that his mother was dead?
I never told him his mother was dead. My father did.
What was his reaction?
Objection. Sustained.
Do you know, how did he react about the news about his mother?
He started misbehaving in school. ...  He would tell people that I wasn't his mother. When he got in trouble he would tell people, That's not my mother. That's my sister. I had to have counseling.

Did you ever talk to him about his mother?
Is that because you don't want to cause him any pain?
Yes. ... He only has one photo of her. When he was about 15 years old and then I finally gave him the obituary.
How long ago did you give him that?
He was 13.
Does he ever come to you and ask questions about his mother?
So the two of you don't talk about that?
We don't.
And he doesn't ask questions?
No he doesn't.
And you don't bring it up because you don't want ot make it more painful?
No I don't.

No cross examination. DDA Silverman calls her next witness.


Defense asks for a sidebar. Over quickly.

Mr. Hollowman is a LAPD criminalist. He's currently working in the serology and DNA unit. He previously assigned to another division. He was assigned to filed investigation unit. Field processing. He was assigned to that area for a year. He was trained in collecting evidence. He talks about other units that he's worked in from when he first started at the lab. For a time, from October 2000 to January 2002, he was responsible for picking up and dropping off evidence.

There are items of evidence that he picked up from the coroner's and booked into evidence at LAPD. He goes over the seals he placed on the envelopes, the DR number, 00-13-0091, and his signatures. The envelopes contain projectile evidence in the Thomas case.

In July 2010 were you part of a search warrant that took part in this case?

He was part of the search of Franklin's garage from July 7-10. He searched a particular part of the garage. He believes at the time they were calling it the central garage. He had to remove portions of the wall of the garage. Other personnel at the garage had the idea that there might be items concealed under a pegboard type of material. He saw a little something that might be under the wall, so he tore up the pegboard. He found a portion of a little yellow grocery bag that he thought contained something. He had photographers photograph it and he found a firearm.

Photos of the firearm are presented and the witness goes through the process of identifying the photos showing where the item was found in the garage, what was in the bag, etc. Inside the bag was a box that said Raven Phoenix Arms. Inside the box was a small caliber pistol, a Titan 25 auto with a magazine inside the weapon. He's asked to open an envelope. He states he did not book the envelope into evidence. It's the handgun and magazine that was introduced in the photos taken during the search of the garage. He reads the serial number off the weapon [ED84204]  and it's the same one that's in the photos.

During the search warrant in the central garage ID cards were found by his partner. More photos presented showing the general area where the ID's were found. The court asks and he confirms that he was his partner find those ID cards. One ID card has the name Rolenia Adele Morris.

Direct is finished and cross begins

There are questions about whether the item behind the wall was positioned in such a way so as to be available for easy access. The witness is not sure. He does agree that to have gotten access to the weapon, one would have had to destroy the wall. He does not remember if the items were packaged for fingerprints.

The witness is finished and the people call their next witness.


She is an LAPD forensic prints specialist assigneed to the chemical detail. She's been employed with the Science Investigation Division for 27 years. We get a bit of history on her work and training and what she did prior to working where she is now She recovers fingerprints from objects.

She explains the three different types of prints. Plastic prints, Patent prints and Latent prints. The most common type of print that is seen in the lab are latent prints. She explains what fingerprints are. Not all surfaces are able to retain prints. Smooth surfaces are best. An identifiable print has significant parts for identification. It depends on how much contact. If you don't make good contact you might not leave a print. There is no way to date a print. Fingerprint patterns are unique to individuals and they do not change over time. Even identical twins will ahve different fingerprints.

She details how they are collected and developed. Through a super glue process in a chamber, she collected a print off of the weapon just introduced into evidence as well as the magazine. After the super glue process she added a fluorescent dye stain to view the print under an alternative light source. Once she was able to clearly see the prints, she photographed them. The photographs of the prints she collected were entered into evidence.

The afternoon break is taken at 3:10 pm and by 3:33 pm we are back on the record.

The witness uses a pointer to show on the photographs she took, where she found the latent prints on the magazine and the weapon.

In cross examination. Seymour Amster questioned her on her testimony that each person has a fingerprint that is unique to ourselves. She bases it on the literature. She mentions several books. The Francis Galton [sp?] book, Dr. Babler's papers on embryonic development of fingerprints and various authors on fingerprint development.

She's also asked what she based her opinion that fingerprints don't change over time. She replies, the same research.

Amster challenges her on the fact that she makes a subjective decision as to whether or not a fingerprint has enough detail to compare or not, before she decides to collect a print by photographing it. She's asked if she saw any partial prints on the weapon or magazine. She doesn'trecall seeing any partial prints.  The witness states if there were other, partial prints they would have had no value. She's questioned on why she chose to photograph the print verses transferring it to a white print collection card. The witness states that with a photograph, she is able to see more detail for comparison.

The end of the court day is reached and the jury is ordered back at 9:00 am tomorrow. Before the jury leaves, Judge Kennedy gets vacation schedules of the jury.

Continued on Day 4......