Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lonnie Franklin, Jr., "Grim Sleeper," Penalty Phase, Day 4

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

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

8:45 AM
I enter Dept. 109 and only Dale Atherton is here.

The bailiff is explaining the court procedure to two deputies who will be helping out today. He talks about when they are required to stand, that the jury gets to leave the courtroom first. And the no phone in sight policy in Judge Kennedy’s courtroom, no matter who you are. He does a good job of laying out the landscape of Judge Kennedy’s court. A few moments after he tells them that Deputy Sargent Westphal usually comes by in the morning to hang out, he arrives.

8:55 AM
A fifth deputy enters the courtroom and joins the chat at the bailiff’s desk. Seymour Amster and the defense fingerprint expert arrive.

9:00 AM
Porter Alexander, father of victim Alicia Alexander, enters and sits in a seat he often occupies, right next to the aisle of the second bench row.

9:03 AM
The prosecution team enters with their law clerks. DDA’s Beth Silverman and Marguerite Rizzo, LAPD Cold Case Detective Daryn Dupree and assistant DDA's Jamie Castro and Paul Pzrelomiec. 

LA Times reporter Stephen Ceasar and his friend arrive. The prosecution team is busy getting set up. Mary Alexander enters with her son and DDA Silverman comes over to chat with the Alexander family.

The court goes on the record at 9:17 am. There is a bit of housekeeping that needs to be done with the exhibits and then the jury is called at 9:23 am.

DDA Rizzo calls the people's next witness.

Deacon is a forensic print comparison specialist for the LAPD. He's had that position since June 2000. He explains his duties. He compares prints put into AFIS, goes out to scenes to try to locate forensic evidence. He's had over 400 hours of classroom instruction. He was first certified by the International Association for Identification in 2008. He tells the jury, "Every case must be verified by two different examiners in our department. It's standard procedure in LAPD."

He details more of his CV and experience for the jury.  He also outlines the proficiency testing he takes annually and that "half of my examinations are verifications." He explains what an exemplar is in fingerprint examination. It's a reference sample.

Deacon describes the different patterns commonly seen in ridges of fingerprints: loops, whorls and arches. Loops are the most common. They are about 60%. Whorls are seen in about 30% of the population and arches are the rarest, seen in about 10%.

At the LAPD, they follow the ACE V methodology.


He explains each step in the process of fingerprint examination. There are many factors that go these steps, most important can be the analysis of print quality. The standard procedures in the lab require 10 points of comparison that can be documented before a print is considered a match.

Before the start of Monday's afternoon session, Deacon rolled the prints of the defendant in the custody area onto an exemplar card.

During Deacon's testimony, Victoria Redstall's mother and an elderly gentleman entered the courtroom and took a seat in the gallery. Redstall's mother took out a notebook and occasionally took notes.

Deacon compared the latent print photos from the Titan 25 auto and magazine that were recovered from the defendant's garage, to an exemplar that had been loaded into AFIS. The single print found on the magazine, Deacon matched to Franklin's left thumb on the AFIS exemplar card.

Deacon was unable to match the latent print photo from the weapon itself to the AFIS exemplar card. He indicated the print was of such low quality, he knew he would not be able to make a comparison.

Deacon also compared the left thumbprint on the AFIS exemplar card to the left thumbprint on the new exemplar card he rolled on Monday. They matched.

In cross examination, Deacon testified that the total size amount of the latent print identified from the magazine was about one-fifth of the total print on the AFIS card. Under redirect, Deacon testified that in that one-fifth of the thumbprint, he found 20 [matching] ridge characteristics. 

The people call their next witness, LAPD Detective John Skaggs


DDA Silverman presents the witness.

LAPD Detective John Skaggs current assignment is the Westside Homicide Unit Supervisor. He's been in that position for seven-and-a-half years. He's been the lead or assisted in approximately 500 homicide investigations.

In 1988 he was a patrol officer at 77 Street Police Station that services the area of South Central Los Angeles.

On October 18, 1988 he was called to a crime scene in the 10,000 block of South Western Avenue. He was the first officer on the scene from the LAPD. The LA County Sheriff's join in this area so both the LASD and LAPD rolled out on that area.

Two LA County Sheriff's were already there. They saw a black female, who appeared to have blood on her chest and vomit on her chin and neck. There was old junk and debris in the alley way. He was the first officer there from his division. Identifies the location in the exhibit. The witness saw that her shirt was off at the scene and that there was blood on her chest.

Identification for the victim was not found at the scene. It looked to him like there was a bullet hole in the left chest. She looked like she was alive. She was breathing. She was moaning a little bit. However, she was not responsive at all.  Nothing related to the crime was found at the location.

Paramedics arrive. They treated her and cut the rest of her clothing off. The put a compression suit on her lower body. These were pants that pushed blood up into the torso. She was transported to Martin Luther King Hospital. From what he observed it appeared that this was a body dump, for what he did and did not see. He came to the conclusion that the victim was shot at a different location.

The victim was identified as Inez Warren. The DR number for this case was 88-12-28728.

Dale Atherton steps up to cross the witness.

He's been a homicide detective for 22 years. He receives special training for that and on the job training. Information at the crime scene as well as information from reporting citizens went into his conclusion that this was a body dump.

There was a 911 call. A sidebar is requested. After the sidebar, Atherton asks, "Were you aware there was a 911 call made?" Detective Skaggs answers, "I was aware that one was made." Instantly, the court shows her displeasure and tells Atherton. "That's not what I relayed to you." The court takes over questioning. "Did you rely on any information on the 911 call that helped with your opinion?"
He answers, "It help with my opinion."

Detective Skaggs was told that three people pushed the victim out of the car. He didn't look for the 911 [caller?]. 

Under redirect, Detective Skaggs agrees that he has no way to know if the 911 individual lied in the 911 call, to throw off  law enforcement. He didn't follow up because it was not his responsibility at the time. [He was not in charge of the investigation.] DDA Silverman tries to get in several questions about the reliability of 911 calls from unknown individuals and that sometimes 911 callers are the true killers.

Judge Kennedy asks the final question, revealing that at the time he responded to the scene he had been on the job for only a year. He was fairly new.

The noon break is called.

1:35 PM
Back inside Dept. 109. The defendant is brought out and we go on the record. DDA Rizzo and Atherton are at sidebar. It's quickly over. The defense fingerprint expert is asked to leave.

1:40 PM
Jurors are called. I see Dr. "Lakshmanan" in the gallery. I've seen him testify before, but for the life of me I can't remember which case. It's actually Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, but no one can pronounce his last name. I've heard reports that for a time he was just called "Dr. Lucky" in trial testimony, to make things easier. Now he's called by his first name.


When he spells his name for the court reporter after taking the stand, the court addresses the jury and asks, "Did you all get that?" There's a bit of laughter. Dr. Lakshmanan is the interim chief medical examiner for Los Angeles County. In March, Dr. Farjardo, the previous medical examiner [who testified earlier in this case] resigned. Dr. Lakshmanan worked for the LA County Coroner's office since 1977. He was the LA County Medical Examiner from 1992 to 2013 when he retired. He's returned to helm the office until a replacement can be found.

His CV and experience is presented to the jury.

Dr. Lakshmanan reviewed the autopsy reports for Sharon Dismuke, murdered in 1984 and Inez Warren, murdered in 1988. All deputy medical examiners are licensed physicians. In 1984 and 1988 he had worked with both of these physicians [Dr. Sherry and Dr. Jackwala sp?] in the past who performed the autopsies. Dr. Sherry, came to the ME's office in the same year he did, 1977. He considered both doctors to be skilled and competent medical examiners. Dr. Sherry was his expert on ballistics and the other doctor he worked with in '83 and '84.

The first case that is reviewed is Sharon Dismuke. He reviewed the entire case file. He was able to form an independent opinion as to manner and cause of death. She sustained two gunshot wounds to her chest which caused her death. There was a gag placed in her oral cavity, a terry-cloth type gag. When the rag was removed he did not see any specific injury to the oral cavity. Agrees that the gag was consistent with the killer placing the gag in the mouth to prevent the victim from screaming. One gunshot wound entered her left shoulder, exited the shoulder and entered her heart. The second gunshot wound in the front of her chest also entered her heart. It is unknown which shot was fired first.

All of Dismuke's wounds are documented for the jury. Dr. Lakshmanan is asked a hypothetical, if the left arm could have been raised as if to block her assailant from shooting her. That would be consistent with what he observed with the wound track of the bullet that entered then exited her arm then reentered her body.

The second gunshot wound entered her left chest, was front to back and downward at approximately 45 degree angle.  DDA Silverman asks, "Would that be consistent with the decedent having received a gunshot  while sitting to the right of a driver's seat?" The witness agrees. "That would be consistent with that scenario, yes." Both gunshot wounds were fatal.

Next, Dr. Lakshmanan introduces the bullets that were recovered from Sharon Dismuke. Both bullets are fully jacketed except for the base. Both are not deformed and consistent with 25 caliber bullets. In Dismuke's toxocology, she was not tested for cocaine. This decedent was verified by fingerprints. She was 21 years old at the time of her death.

2:47 PM
Judge Kennedy calls the afternoon break before they get to the next case.

The Alexander family stays in the gallery in the second bench row. LA Times reporter Stephen Ceasar is in the back row. While chatting with the Alexander family, DDA Silverman tells them one of her favorite articles on the case was one done by the LA Times that featured  Donnell Alexander's drawings. Donnell has been drawing while he's been sitting in court.

During the break, I observe Redstall's mother approach one of the deputies in the gallery. It looked like she was asking to speak to Judge Kennedy's bailiff. Maybe she was asking for some leniency for her daughter to be able to come back. Whatever it was Redstall's mother wanted, Redstall is not back in the courtroom.

Back on the record. The interim coroner is back on the stand.

He now reviews the coroner's case file for victim Inez Warren. The autopsy was conducted by Dr. Sherry. Dr. Lakshmanan was able to form an independent conclusion on the case.

Warren came to the coroner's office after surgery was performed on her at the hospital. Certain things that might have been collected if she came directly to the coroner's were not done. There's no sexual assault kit in this case. The coroner's only received one piece of clothing, a pair of shorts. Dr. Lakshmanan states that when someone is hospitalized, there could be some compromise with the collection of evidence.

Warren had a single gunshot wound which perforated the heart. The hospital did resuscitative treatment. They did a thoracotamy. They made an incision across the chest to address her internal injuries. The doctors describe repairing injuries to the right side of her heart. She did not survive very long in the hospital.

The autopsy documents a gunshot wound to the chest went left front of the chest. In this case they did not recover any projectile. It entered the body causing damage to her heart and lungs and exited the body from the back of the chest. It was a "through and through" shot. Photos are shown where her surgical incisions were sutured. An autopsy photo of her face is up on the ELMO. She's beautiful even in death. There was an injury to the left forehead. Bruising and abrasions are visible. The next photo shows the exit wound in the right posterior chest area. The gunshot wound had a dark discoloration called sooting. This would be a contact wound. It's what Dr. Sherry described and Dr. Lakshmanan agrees with him.

The trajectory of this bullet was from front to back, left to right and slightly downward. This would also be consistent with the previous hypothetical of her being in a vehicle, and being shot by the person to the left in the driver's seat. The tox screen showed the presence of cocaine as well as metabolite of cocaine.

The victim was 28 years old at the time of her death and she was identified by fingerprints. She had a white metal bracelet that was recovered and submitted to property. 

In cross examination the Dismuke case is gone over first. Dr. Lakshmanan states he did not examine the rag that was in the victims mouth because it had already been released to the police department. The blunt force trauma she experienced to the head did not break the skin.

In the Warren case, Dr. Lakshmanan is asked about the size of the bullet wound.

"Did you think that a 25 caliber bullet could pass through all that [tissue] and pass through?"

Dr. Lakshmanan states, "The diameter of the entry wound is 3/16 of an inch. It would be consistent with a 25 caliber ... and the exit wound located in the back ... 3/8 inch in diameter. ... The bullet didn't strike any bone. I can never tell what bullet went through. ... [However] Given my education, if a larger size bullet, I usually see a larger size entrance wound. ... 38 caliber causes 3/8 inch entry wound. 45 caliber causes 1/2 inch entrance wound. ... The diameter is also subject to the elastic of the skin. ... Based on experience, I would favor it's a small caliber bullet. ... I can't tell you for sure. ... It would be a small caliber bullet. It would be either 22 or 25."

On the Dismuke case, a sexual assault kit was collected and nipple swabs done.

No redirect and the witness is excused.


DDA Silverman presents the witness.

What is your relation to Debra Jackson?
She was my older sister.
Do you recognize this picture of her?
Yes I do.
Do you know when that was taken?
About '83 or '84. 
So maybe a year or so prior to her death?

How old were you when your sister Debra was murdered?
I was 22.

Where were you living?
In Springfield, Massachusetts. ... Debra lived in Los Angeles. She was sent there to take care of our mother's mother. 
How old was Grandma?
She was in her early 80's I believe.
How long was your sister out here before you got word that she had been murdered?
Seven years.
When was the last time that you saw Debra prior to her death?
1984 at my Grandmother's funeral. ... 1983, sorry.

That was the last time you saw her alive?
When did you learn about ... how did you learn about your sister's murder?
My mother told me.
Was she living near you in Massachusetts at the time?
Did she call you up? 
I don't believe she ... I believe it was early morning. She got a call from my other sister who also lived in Los Angeles. 

What was your mother's demeanor when she told you about this?
She was devastated.
What did you observe that made you believe that?
She was crying and she was hysterical and she was worried about Debra's children.
And we had to get to Los Angeles and we didn't have any money and it was just awful.
How many children did she have at the time of her death?
She had three. ... Martha, Jermaine, and Anyata.
Did you fly out here from Massachusetts so you could testify in this case?
Yes, I did.
Why is that important to you?
Because it would be important to my mother.
Your mother passed away?
Yes, she did.
My mother was heart broke. 
Did she recover from this loss?
No, not really.

What did she start to plan?

She planned to come out here and get her grandchildren and bring them home so she would be safe.
How old was she at the time?

A woman seated in the row directly in front of me breaks down and sobs. The witness rubs her eyes.

Tanya's mother came out here alone. She collected Debra's two children, her son and a baby daughter, and then she collected my sister and her two children.
What did she do?
She had them all get on the bus and come home.
Did she subsequently get her third child back?
Why was that important to her to get all of her children and grandchildren and move them back from LA and to Massachusetts?
Because family was everything to her. ... And she wanted them to be safe. ... She was a woman who felt that she could raise them and keep them safe.

Did your mother raise all of Debra's children?
Yes, she did.
Did you help out with that?
Yes, I did. 
Even though you were 22 at the time?

Did you learn from anyone else at the time what had happened specifically?
Out in Los Angeles, the only thing that was told to me was that she was shot. That was the only thing.

When I came out in March...
And that was the first time that you gained some information, some answers?
All that you knew prior to that was that she had been shot?
We got information in 2007 that she was murdered by a serial killer, but by then, my mother was already gone. 
What year did your mother die?
Do you think that the death of your sister and not being about to see that her killer was apprehended, prior to her death, impacted her life?
Oh, it impacted her hugely. ... Her health deteriorated. ... She stayed with the kids and she made sure that they got a good chance at life.

It impacted all of us, hugely. Our lives were not the same from that point. It was different because there as someone missing from the family. Debbie was gone and she was my mother's oldest child. She was my mother's confidant. They just had this unique relationship and I was the youngest girl. I could see that a part of my mother was missing. Debbie was 7 years older, so helping my mother raise her children and made me the aunt that I am and the person I am ... and it affected my life and the choices that I made.

Do you think that if you had to put your finger on the single most significant event that made you the adult that you became?
That would be the death of my sister.
And the rest of the family?
[Miss beginning answer.] Except for my sister Rochelle [sp?]. She had a stroke.
Even though you were the youngest, you wound up having to become like a mother, an adult, to take care of all these children.
At the time, I was 8 months pregnant. So my son grew up around her children. 
What is your son's name?
Davon [sp?]
Did the way you parent Davon, did that change what you witnessed because of your sister?
I'd say yes.

Do you have a close family and celebrate the holidays together?
Do you do anything on her birthday to honor her?
That, even that's hard. ... It's such a painful memory that even that's difficult to do.
What about photos of her and family events and things like that?
Do you ever sit around and [look at photos?]?
We don't have any. After my sister passed her house caught on fire and we don't have any photographs.
In this photo, in this exhibit, is this something that's displayed in the family home?
In my niece's house, over her fireplace.
What size is it?
It's huge. Bigger than a 40 inch TV.

A young man in the row in front of me says, "Try 50 [inches]."

Did you come out here for the funeral of your sister?
I was unable to come out.
So you were unable to attend her funeral?
No, I wasn't.
Did your mother describe for you what that was like?
It was such a horrific event for my mother, so she did not describe that to me.

So I had to scrape together the money to get everyone back to Massachusetts, and my mother back.
What was that time period like for you, knowing that your mother was out here trying to gather everybody, and you're left at home, your pregnant, and you have to scrape together money?
Well, between myself and my sister Vavone [sp?], so I was in charge so I had to do it.
So when she came back did you have any conversations ... ?
All the attention was focused on the next step and getting my niece to Massachusetts. ... She tried to get her and she couldn't. 

What was the fallout, or the impact on Debra's children? They were uprooted, brought back to Massachusetts, their mother was gone. What did you observe?
They had lost their mother but they had my mother. She was such a force. She provided them a home and loved them. Although it might have been difficult for them, they had a roof over their head and food in their mouths. They had their basic needs met.

Tanya has more children now.

My children and Debra's children are very close. We celebrate the holidays together. ... We just celebrated the graduation of her grandchild from college. And my sister Michelle's son. So there's a lot of siblings, now that Mom's gone.

Who's the glue that holds everyone together?
I guess it would be me.
When your mother came back, her attention was focused on raising her grandchildren?
Did she ever say that she felt personally responsible, what happened to Debbie?
She never actually said that but she carried that.
What do you mean?
The way she carried the  children, watching over them, making them safe. ... If she ... she was just giving her another week, she would have been back home.
That was Debbie's plan?

That was Debbie's plan.

What is it you think about the most? Is it the relationship you two had growing up? What resulted from her death? The time that you heard?
I think about the relationship that my mother and Debbie had. How loving she was. How trusting she was.
Yeah. ... I think about her smile.
Do you think that maybe she was too trusting?

And has her loss resulted in, how cautious and how worried you are to her children and grandchildren?
You went a week ago to a graduation?
It was just this last Sunday.  ... It was her first grandchild to graduate from high school and collage.
What was that like to experience?
It was a very joyous occasion.

Did you ever think to yourself when you were all together that she missed out on that? She missed out on the birth of her grandchildren and things lie this joyous event?
Debbie was missing but my mom was missing too.
They were both missing. How do you find a way after all this went on, to go on and turn it into something that was something good?

Tanya rubs her eyes. Her voice cracks, and she sobs as she answers.

Because my mom would have expected it of me.  There's so much more to life and we have to get about the business of living it.
And that's what you've done?
And that's what I've done.
Thank you.

No cross examination.

Judge Kennedy thanks the witness for coming such a long distance. 

Judge Kennedy orders everyone back at 9:00 am tomorrow. She then talks about the baseball game last night. It was, "..four hours that I lost of my life." She talks about the one juror on the panel who is not a Dodger fan who is happy. The juror at the very end of the front row smiles. Judge Kennedy talks about the game that will happen tonight and looks forward to seeing them all tomorrow.

After the jurors leave, the court asks the people to identify their witnesses for tomorrow. I don't get all the names correct.

Jermaine Jackson. Myah Green. Dr. Ortiz. Rafael Garcia. Alfreda? 

DDA Silverman tells the court, "We have one victim family member who is in the hospital. We will know more tomorrow. We may be in a position where, we don't have any witnesses for Friday morning. We think we're going to finish our case next week, even with the three days we have off. We are very likely going to finish by the end of next week. 

That would put the start of the defense case around May 31.