Crime & Justice

'Grim Sleeper' defense focuses on DNA evidence

FILE- In this Feb. 16, 2016, file photo, Lonnie Franklin Jr., left, appears in Los Angeles Superior Court for opening statements in his trial in Los Angeles. Franklin has pleaded not guilty to killing nine women and a 15-year-old girl between 1985 and 2007 in one of the city's most notorious serial killer cases.
FILE- In this Feb. 16, 2016, file photo, Lonnie Franklin Jr., left, appears in Los Angeles Superior Court for opening statements in his trial in Los Angeles. Franklin has pleaded not guilty to killing nine women and a 15-year-old girl between 1985 and 2007 in one of the city's most notorious serial killer cases.
Al Seib/AP

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Accused serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr.'s legal team plans to poke holes in forensic evidence allegedly linking him to multiple victims, Franklin's attorney said in an opening statement Monday. 

Franklin., 63, has pleaded not guilty to the murders of nine women and a teenaged girl in South Los Angeles that occurred between 1985 and 2007. He's been dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" because of an apparent dormant period between his alleged murders. 

Investigators say they've linked DNA found on some of those murder victims to Franklin using  a partially eaten pizza slice. They also say ballistics evidence links some of the murders to Franklin and to each other. 

But Monday, defense attorney Seymour Amster said that evidence isn't foolproof—and picking it apart will form much of Franklin's legal strategy. 

He said in many cases, the DNA swabs on victims' clothing and bodies yielded evidence of multiple DNA contributors—not just Franklin. 

For instance, in the case of Barbara Ware, Amster said a swab of her mouth turned up Lonnie Franklin’s DNA. But a swab on her shirt did not.

“They analyzed sperm fraction on the shirt and found at least three donors and one was a male. In that mixutre, they excluded Lonnie Franklin as being the potential contributor to that DNA sample on the shirt,” he said. "“Picking and choosing is not a proper science."

Monday's statements come over a month into the trial.  The prosecution, led by Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman, rested its case last week.

Attorneys spent much of the morning arguing some of the finer points in the case, outside the presence of the jury, and often to the frustration of Amster.

At one point, Judge Katheen Kennedy indicated Amster would have to refile a subpoena involving Los Angeles Police's chain of custody for some of the physical evidence involved in the case.

"I'm going to rest, we have no defense," Amster yelled. "I can not completely defend this man any further." 

Kennedy, who asked Amster to calm himself down, called for a short recess, after which the trial resumed. 

Franklin, dressed in a white collared dress shirt and a tie, black pants and black rimmed glasses, sat quietly throughout.