The "Day Stalker" serial killer who preyed on elderly women and terrorized the East Bay in the summer of 1987 will appear before the California Supreme Court this week to plead for his life — 18 years after his death sentence.
As long a time as that may seem, it's neither an extreme in California's logjammed capital punishment system, nor much more than a first step.
But it has been a long time to wait for the families of the three women — Pearl Larson, 76; Adeline Figuerido, 89; and Anna Constantine, 73 — since Franklin Lynch was convicted of murdering while robbing their San Leandro homes in the summer of 1987. Lynch also was convicted of robbing two other Hayward-area women.
Though Lynch was sent to San Quentin State Prison's death row in April 1992, the opening brief in his automatic, direct appeal — bypassing the Court of Appeal, straight to the state's highest court — wasn't filed until 2004, with the state's response a year later and his reply in 2007.
Lynch, already suspected in a string of robberies and homicides, was the subject of a manhunt a month before the first of the three slayings for which he would eventually be convicted. FBI agents arrested him in Los Angeles in October 1987.
Pam Figuerido, of Fremont, wife of Adeline Figuerido's grandson, Gary, said the family had been told when Lynch was sentenced that it would probably be about 14 years until his execution.
"We thought, 'Fourteen years, what a waste of the taxpayers' money,'" she said. "And we're still paying for him to sit here after he has murdered? It was vicious, what he did to this woman, and we're letting him live his life?"
"It angers us that justice hasn't been served — what is taking so long?"
Even Michael Ciraolo, one of Lynch's trial attorneys, thought it unusual: "Eighteen years, is that some kind of record?"
It's not, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts; other cases have waited longer.
Ciraolo, now retired, said he recalls phone calls in the years right after Lynch's trial from appellate attorneys whom the Supreme Court had asked to take the case. When they saw how complex the appeal would be — three murder convictions, robbery convictions in two other incidents, and evidence from two other uncharged slayings introduced at trial — they all balked at taking the meager pay the state offers, he said.
Records show it was in 1997 — more than five years after Lynch's sentencing — that the State Public Defender's Office was named to represent him, and it was two years later that his lawyers made a motion to correct, complete and settle the trial record; the full record, about 17,000 pages, wasn't filed until 2002. Lynch tried to fire the State Public Defender's Office in 2003, but his motion was denied. Between each event, the court granted request after request for more time.
In his 481-page appeal brief, Lynch cites a litany of reasons why his conviction should be overturned, including that the trial judge erred: by not letting him fire his attorneys and represent himself; in removing four prospective jurors who said they would have trouble reaching a death verdict; and in refusing to sever the crimes into separate trials so jurors would have to weigh them separately rather than aggregating them. He also claims that he wasn't represented by counsel at a police lineup in which he was identified by witnesses, and that a prosecutor made an improper, prejudicial statement to the jury during closing arguments, as well as that California's death-penalty law is unconstitutional and violates international law.
The state Attorney General's Office refutes all this, arguing that the trial judge didn't err or abuse his discretion; jurors were properly excused; Lynch had two lawyers at the police lineup; his absence from certain hearings, even if in error, was harmless; and so on.
Alameda County assistant district attorney Jim Anderson at trial had called Lynch a "human reptile" and a "murder machine." Now retired, Anderson noted that besides this direct appeal Lynch also has pending before the state Supreme Court a habeas corpus case: a reinvestigation of the whole case in which new evidence can be brought in or existing evidence can be recast. When that's done, he can file a habeas corpus case in federal court, too.
"We're looking probably at another 15 years. What a joke," Anderson said. "Once again it just shows you how the California Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit have slowed things down to make the death penalty an absolute farce in California."
Meanwhile, the Figueridos keep waiting.
A forensic pathologist testified at Lynch's trial that Adeline Figuerido died from as many as a dozen blows to the head, neck and face, suffering a brain hemorrhage and numerous broken bones. Her daughters found her on the dining-room floor, her hands tied behind her back and a blanket tied around her head.
"Something like this never goes away, the whole situation was a nightmare," Pam Figuerido said. "You can't get the image out of your mind of her lying on the autopsy table, seeing what he did to her. You don't even treat animals like that."
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