With one last gruesome slideshow, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday that Los Angeles' worst killer has been proved to be "cruel, evil and depraved" and should be put to death for murdering 10 women.
Chester Turner, 40, was convicted of the killings by the same jury that began deliberating on whether he will spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole or will be executed. The victims were mostly street prostitutes, all were addicted to cocaine and one was pregnant. They were murdered primarily in South Los Angeles.
As he had before, Turner watched a succession of blow-up photographs of his victims, many of them beaten severely, strangled and discarded where he had sexually assaulted them.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Truc Do urged jurors to make Turner California's 665th death row inmate, arguing that he could have been sentenced to life after his second killing.
"Is it appropriate that he receive the same sentence he would have received had he stopped in 1987, after his second murder?" Do asked, often addressing individual jurors directly by number. "If Chester Turner has not crossed that line, when would it ever be? If the death penalty is not appropriate for this city's most prolific serial killer, when would it ever be?"
The defense took just 30 minutes to argue for Turner's life.
"Chester Turner is dead," said his lawyer, Anthony R. Robusto, pointing across the courtroom. "As he sits there right now, he is dead. He is socially, morally dead. It's a severe punishment. He will die in prison."
The verdict was "just," Robusto said, while appealing for "mercy for the merciless, for pity for the pitiless."
Another man was convicted of several of the murders and served 11 years in prison before he was freed. A sheriff's investigator, Cliff Shepard, reopened the case, discovering more and more victims linked to Turner through DNA and exonerating the other man, who had confessed.
If sentenced to die, Turner would join Randy Kraft, the Orange County man convicted of killing 16; Charles Manson; and Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, who terrorized Southern California before being caught and convicted of murdering 13 people across the area.
State corrections officials could not say whether anyone other than Kraft has had more victims.
Thirteen people have been executed in California in the last 30 years; 12 have committed suicide while on death row awaiting lethal injection.
In his short address, Robusto said he could not explain "what happened" to Turner between the time a family picture showed a smiling 13-year-old boy and the time he became a serial killer. The attorney suggested that Turner, like his victims, was addicted to crack cocaine.
"I'm so inadequate here," Robusto said in a plea to jurors. "There's no school on the face of the planet for me to go and do what I'm doing now."
He told jurors, who began deliberations at midafternoon, that any lingering doubt they may have would justify punishment of life in prison rather than death.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William R. Pounders told jurors they could consider the statements that half a dozen survivors made in court this week.
He directed them to consider aggravating circumstances compared with mitigating circumstances.