LAPD detectives and District Attorney Steve Cooley may be sure they have their guy, but the trial of suspected L.A. Grim Sleeper serial killer Lonnie Franklin, Jr. — who is accused of killing over 10 black women over three decades, many of them prostitues, and was recently linked to eight more missing persons — is moving slow as molasses through what victims' families see as the perhaps too thorough Superior Court system.
KNX news radio reports that there were “audible objections heard in the courtroom” this morning when L.A. Judge Hilleri Merritt delayed Franklin's hearing to August. And that's just the pre-trial…
The trial itself isn't expected to begin for up to a year.
Ever since Franklin pleaded “not guilty” last August, his case was slowed to an excruciating crawl. Investigators still haven't been able to pin down any cold, hard evidence linking him to a string of brutal rapes and murders, beginning in 1985 and exposed by the LA Weekly's Christine Pelisek in 2008. She nicknamed him the Grim Sleeper because of an apparent 14-year hiatus in his South L.A. killing spree.
Donnell Alexander, the brother of Sleeper victim Monique Alexander, expressed his frustration over the court's delay to KNX today. He recalled that the deputy district attorney told victims' families:
“It's not something we're comfortable with, but everyone gets due process.”
Franklin's lawyers see things differently. Pro-bono attorney Louisa Pensanti insists that her client is innocent, and criticized the LAPD in December for tainting the jury pool by releasing a treasure trove of photos found in Franklin's home, asking the public to identify more possible victims.
“The photographs include members and friends of the Franklin family, all now subject to the intense scrutiny of the public as well as the police,” Pensanti said in a statement at the time.
Update: Pensanti tells us that today's hearing only lasted five minutes. She was the one that asked for an August 1 pre-trial.
“We're not ready for trial until we complete our investigation, which entails 22,000 pages of discovery,” she says. “The District Attorney actually handed over more discovery, and indicated there's more discovery coming.”
And as for the reactions of the courtroom audience:
“If they want a trial, they need to realize that our system provides for a fair trial,” Pensanti says. “If they want to just build the gallows and do what they want to do, then go to a different country, because that's not the way we work in the United States of America.”