'Grim Sleeper' Attorney Says LAPD Tainting Jury Pool With Photos

Photographs Found at Home of Suspect Were Released Last Week

Dec. 19, 2010— -- The attorney representing Lonnie David Franklin Jr, the suspected "Grim Sleeper" serial killer, has criticized police for releasing photographs of women found at Franklin's home.

Louisa Pensanti said the photos are of Franklin's friends and family, and that their release is "jeopardizing Lonnie Franklin's chance for a fair trial."

"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 told ABC News.

She added that the photos were not part of the evidence discovery that she was provided with by the District Attorney's Office, and she also told The Associated Press that Franklin's relatives are upset the photos were released.

The Los Angeles Police Department said that they have tentatively indentified 15 of the dozens of women in the photos.

Deputy Chief of Police and Chief of Detectives David R. Doan said "five people have identified five specific names" from the 180 images released.

Franklin is accused of murdering nine young women between 1985 and 2007 in South Los Angeles. He has been dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" because of the 14-year gap in his alleged crime spree.

Police say they are hoping people will recognize the faces and contact investigators through their tip hotline. The photos show women ranging from teenagers to others who look as if they are in their 60s. Some are smiling, others appear to be unconscious .

Doan said that "three or four of the five at this point" have come forward and said "it was me in the picture."

"We have not confirmed that and we're going to personally interview everyone," Doan said.

Doan said investigators are tracking down the people who made the calls, saying that they were turning most of their attention to people calling in to report that someone in one of the photos is a missing person.

"[It's a] hotter lead ... if the person has not been seen for a couple of years," Doan said. "They say 'it's me' is not as hot as someone reported missing."

Click here to view all of the "Grim Sleeper" photos.

"These people are not suspects," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said of the photos on Thursday. "We don't even know if they are victims. ... We certainly do not believe that we are so lucky or so good that we know all of the victims. We need the public's help."

Beck also cautioned the public that some of the photos are decades old, and that the women "will have changed, aged."

Many of the photos of these women show them with either their breasts exposed or fully naked.

Detective Kilcoyne, who headed the team that tracked down Franklin, would not comment on the nature of the photographed women's "lifestyle or situation." He said the LAPD was showing only the women's faces, which was "indicative of the content in the photos."

"Our best wish is that we get a phone call from each and every one of them and that everyone is OK," he said.

Detectives also encouraged any of the women who are still alive to come forward and explain how they came to be photographed.

Los Angeles police offered Franklin's wife the opportunity to view the photos at police headquarters in order to identify friends or family members, but she refused, a high-ranking official told ABC News.

Franklin, a 57-year-old mechanic, was charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in July in the "Grim Sleeper" case.

When detectives searched Franklin's home and surrounding property, they found more than 1,000 photos and hundreds of hours of home video footage in his possession.

"It's a long period of time that he's been taking pictures," Kilcoyne said.

Authorities working on the case said they had been trying to identify the women in the images for months.

Franklin pleaded not guilty to the charges on Aug. 23, 2010, during a court appearance. He remains in custody.

Pensanti also criticized investigators for comments made at a press conference, which she said were "a deliberate tainting of public opinion and the jury pool."

"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," she said.

Determining the identity of a suspect in the search for the "Grim Sleeper," who had eluded police for more than two decades, was helped by a DNA sample taken from Franklin's son.

According to the attorney general's office, the suspect's son was arrested and convicted on a felony weapons charge and swabbed for DNA last year. When his DNA was entered into the database of convicted felons, detectives were alerted to a partial match to evidence found at the "Grim Sleeper" crime scenes.