Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Clairemont Killer

The Trial

When prosecutor Dan Lamborn requested that both Douglas and Ankrom participate in the trial, the court conducted a lengthy pre-trial hearing concerning their qualifications. Douglas was going to take the stand to provide background about the profiling analysis, while Ankrom would specifically address the series of Clairemont-area crimes. The defense attorneys protested that they were not psychologists and should not be allowed to make any psychological assessments.

The court concluded that the witnesses' experience and training failed to qualify them to express an opinion about the perpetrator's probable state of mind, so that aspect of their testimony was excluded. However, the court accepted that they had sufficient training and experience in crime scene investigation to testify about analyzing the scenes. It was also deemed probable that the jury would not have the requisite knowledge to understand such concepts as "signature analysis" and linking similar crime scenes, so using an expert to explain it was acceptable; however, because it bordered on psychological motive, they were not allowed to actually use the word, "signature." The prosecution elected to use only Ankrom, since he had been more extensively involved in the case.

The trial, taking place in the summer of 1993, brought out several interesting items, one of which was a biological quirk that had stalled the investigation. Apparently, Prince was a non-secretor, meaning he failed to secrete in his biological fluids a blood enzyme present in 75% of the population. Since the tests did not pick it up, the semen analysis from the Weinhold murder erroneously indicated that the offender's blood type was O. Prince's was type A. It took a year to discover and rectify this mistake, which was partially responsible for not initially linking Prince to that incident after his first arrest. Investigators had concentrated on offenders with type O blood, and only later did the DNA analysis help them match Prince definitively to the crime. An expert testified that there was only one chance in 120,000 of a random match.

Prince's roommate testified about a night when Prince came back, with fresh blood on his jeans, to the apartment they shared. He gave a story that he'd gotten into a fight with his girlfriend. However, he'd often bragged about his burglaries and said he'd stabbed some people to death. He recalled Prince talking about stabbing them in the heart. They had lived next door to the building where Elissa Keller was murdered. This person had even been involved in some of the burglaries, and he testified about wearing socks on their hands. He also recalled woman's jewelry that Prince had in his possession.

When Special Agent Ankrom took the stand, he testified that all six victims had been slain by the same person; his judgment was based on the commonality of the wound pattern and his experience with other such series of crimes. He'd been involved in the case since the second murder, he said, and provided a full history. This included recounting the particular details that linked the cases. Under cross-examination by Prince's attorney, Barton Sheela III, Ankrom admitted that he did not get information involving knife attacks on area women who had survived. He also did not get information on murders in other neighborhoods. In fact, there was an unsolved homicide of a white woman stabbed in her home in the San Diego area, committed after Prince was arrested, and Ankrom had not examined it. However, Judge Charles Hayes limited this discussion and called for a closed session, since allowing details to be made public could adversely affect that particular investigation.

Judge Charles Hayes
Judge Charles Hayes

In closing, Deputy DA Lamborn made the case that Prince was a sexual pervert who enjoyed watching blood flow from women's breasts, and Lamborn emphasized the brutal similarities among the crimes. Sheela pointed out the eyewitnesses who could not identify Prince as the man they'd seen in the vicinity of the murders. In most of the cases, he said, there was no physical evidence against his client. He described the many differences among the crimes, insisting that they could not be viewed as a whole. Then it went to the jury.

The jurors deliberated nine days before they returned a verdict on July 13, 1993. Prince was found guilty for all six counts of murder, as well as twenty burglaries and a few other charges. One reporter said that a member of his team had to coach him to react to this verdict, so as not to break his mother's heart. She continued to insist to the press that her son was not the killer.

San Quentin Prison
San Quentin Prison

The special circumstance of multiple murder was sufficient grounds for giving him the death penalty. The same jury made this decision, recommending execution in the gas chamber or by lethal injection at San Quentin. Prince stood in court to face the victim's families and said, "I did not kill any of your daughters." He talked about how he'd seen pictures of the crime scenes and he'd cried over them, insisting again and again that he was innocent. Judge Hayes affirmed the sentence, and Prince joined fourteen other men on California's death row at San Quentin. But now the appeals would begin, and the first one was heard over a decade later.


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