Medical examiner defends analysis of autopsy reports in Grim Sleeper trial

Lonnie Franklin Jr., 63, faces 10 counts of murder in the Grim Sleeper killings.

Lonnie Franklin Jr., 63, faces 10 counts of murder in the Grim Sleeper killings.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The attorney for the man accused of murdering 10 young women over a period of decades in South Los Angeles, suggested Thursday that recent reviews of the victims’ autopsy reports could be flawed.

Questions about the autopsies were raised as testimony continued in the trial of Lonnie Franklin Jr., who prosecutors allege is responsible for the grisly slayings committed by a serial killer dubbed the Grim Sleeper.

NEWSLETTER: Get essential California headlines delivered daily >>

Franklin faces 10 counts of murder in the killings of nine women and a 15-year-old girl spanning more than 20 years. He also faces one count of attempted murder.


Franklin, 63, has pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorney Seymour Amster grilled Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner Mark Fajardo about his analysis of autopsy reports of some of the victims, beginning with Debra Jackson, a 29-year-old waitress who was discovered in 1985 shot in the chest in an alley. She is believed to be the serial killer’s first victim.

On Wednesday, Fajardo testified that he had reviewed autopsies conducted by medical examiners who have since died or are unable to testify.

Amster’s questioning focused on Fajardo’s ability to have a conclusive analysis without personally conducting the autopsies, and whether the documents he reviewed were properly maintained and corresponded correctly to the victims.

For instance, Amster asked if Fajardo had any way to confirm that the medical examiner who conducted an autopsy verified the identity of the body by toe-tag. In one case, that information was written in a report. In another, it was not, Fajardo said.

Fajardo, who has been county coroner since 2013, repeatedly stated that he could only rely on the documentation and photographs provided to him.

On Wednesday, guided by Deputy Dist. Atty. Beth Silverman through decades-old documents, Fajardo testified that seven of the victims died from gunshot wounds to the chest, one was strangled and another suffered both strangulation and gunshot wounds.

Fajardo also testified that the trajectory of the bullets was consistent with the victims sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle while their assailant sat in the driver’s seat. That is the method Silverman has alleged Franklin used in the killings.


Fajardo’s testimony was expected to continue Thursday afternoon.

The Homicide Report: A story for every victim>>

For more Los Angeles court news, follow @sjceasar.



Man charged in brutal attack on fan at Dodger Stadium last year

High-profile attorney Ted Olson joins Apple’s fight against FBI terror probe

Judge rejects plea deal in ex-NFL star Darren Sharper’s rape case