Imagine parents sitting in a public courtroom while graphic, nude photos of your murdered teenage daughter are displayed on a giant video screen, followed by autopsy photos and close-ups of gunshot wounds and ligature marks.
All of that and more were part of opening statement as the trial began for what has become known as the "Grim Sleeper'' case in downtown Los Angeles.
At one point family members just had to leave the courtroom, they couldn't take it. Understandable. It's been 5 years since an arrest, 30 years since the first killing happened in South LA. Lonnie Franklin, now 63, a one time city mechanic, sat impassively in a dress blue shirt and glasses, looking like somebody's mild mannered uncle rather than the sadistic serial killer the prosecution claims he is, who stalked women, shot or strangled them, photographed their naked bodies with a Polaroid, and then dumped them like trash in alleys.
He allegedly took a 13 and a half year break at one point during his spree, unexplained, which led an investigative reporter for the LA Weekly to give him that awkward nickname, and it stuck. There have been years of delays in getting this to court, and years before that many in the community felt these killings weren't given high enough priority because the victims were black, often prostitutes and crack cocaine users.
It was years before they even identified this was the work of the same killer. Police have always denied that, but in certain areas of Los Angeles police don't have the most credibility. In fact, Margaret Prescod, of the organization'' Black Coalition Fighting Black Serial Murders" which she began literally 30 years ago and is in essence a precursor of ''Black Lives Matter'' says police "marginalized " these women because of who they were and what they did.
Nonetheless we're here now, and Franklin, if convicted, is looking at the death penalty. He's being tried for 10 murders, one was a teenager of 15, another a teenager of 18, and one attempted murder, ( that victim is expected to be a prosecution witness ) and it's believed Franklin actually killed many more, as there are dozens of women who are still missing.
Franklin's defense attorney would not talk to me about his plans, other than to say he's pleaded not guilty. There is , according to the prosecutor, very strong DNA evidence linking Franklin to the crime. Just like there was strong DNA evidence linking a certain ex football hero to a gruesome double murder on this same secure 9th floor of the Criminal Courts building some 20 years ago. It's not always straightforward.