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Grim Sleeper suspect's attorney criticizes LAPD for releasing photos of women [Updated]

December 18, 2010 |  8:14 am

The attorney for Grim Sleeper serial killer suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr. criticized Los Angeles police for releasing scores of photos of women found in Franklin's possession.

In a statement, Louisa Pensanti complained that the photos were not part of discovery in Frankin's case and that some of the images were of Franklin's family and friends.

"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," she wrote.

An LAPD source told The Times that detectives had asked Franklin's family to review the photos before they were publicly released so that ones of his family and friends could be removed. But the source said officials got not no reply to their requests. It's unclear whether Pensanti has now asked that any photos specifically be removed.

The LAPD was inundated with hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and other tips a day after detectives released photographs of the unidentified women found in a trailer belonging to Franklin, who has pleaded not guilty to 10 killings in South L.A.

"The information coming in is voluminous," said Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, who headed the task force that searched for the killer. Officers, he said, have fielded "hundreds upon hundreds" of phone calls, as well as e-mails and text messages that flooded in through various hotlines and online accounts the department uses.

When Franklin, who is accused of sexually assaulting and murdering 10 African American women in South L.A., was arrested in July, authorities found a disturbing trove of about 1,000 photographs and hundreds of hours of video of women. Some of the images appeared to be innocent snapshots, but most showed the women in various states of undress and striking sexual poses.

Fearing that some of the women could be additional victims, detectives set out to identify them. Some of the material dated back to the 1980s and included video and digital camera images, Polaroids, conventional prints and even undeveloped film. The LAPD estimates that it is trying to identify about 160 people.

In her statement, Pensanti took issue with some comments made by public officials at the press conference releasing the photos. She was not specific but said: "The comments concluding guilt made by public officials during the press conference appear to be a deliberate tainting of public opinion and the jury pool."

The statement continued: "Sadly, the public officials who have the Duty to uphold the Constitution have forgotten the basics in their desire for sensationalism and are jeopardizing Lonnie Franklin's chance for a fair trial."

[Updated at 10:43 a.m.: LAPD officials said the decision to release the photos was not made lightly. Detectives said they were concerned about how the images should be presented to the public given the explicit nature of the material, and understood that the photo release could force the women to revisit encounters with Franklin from periods in their lives they would rather forget.

In the end, the LAPD opted to release closely cropped versions of the images that show the women's faces. Detectives also wanted to be sensitive to the families of the 10 women Franklin is alleged to have killed. Before the announcement, they invited members of the victims' families to LAPD headquarters to view the images that would be released.

Kilcoyne acknowledged that some might be offended by the decision to go public with the pictures and video stills. In the end, though, the need to know the fate of the women and how Franklin had come to collect the images outweighed the potential embarrassment to the women. For similar reasons, The Times has published the images.

"We are just trying to do what is right and decent," Kilcoyne said. "We are very cognizant of not causing embarrassment or anguish to the people depicted in the photographs."]


LAPD gets hundreds of calls in 'Grim Sleeper' case

Releasing Grim Sleeper photos was agonzing decision

PHOTOS: Images found in possession of Grim Sleeper suspect

Homicide Report: Grim Sleeper case

--Andrew Blankstein