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Griffin guilty, faces life


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POSTED: Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Darnell Griffin faces spending the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility for parole when a state judge sentences him in July.

A Circuit Court jury found Griffin, 50, guilty yesterday of second-degree murder in the 1999 strangulation death of 20-year-old Evelyn Luka.

The normal penalty for second-degree murder is life in prison with the possibility for parole. However, Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Takata said he will ask Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario to sentence Griffin to life without the possibility for parole.

“;This man should take his last breath behind bars,”; Takata said.

Under state law, a judge may sentence a person who has been convicted of second-degree murder to life in prison without possibility of parole if that person has a previous state conviction for second-degree murder.

Another state judge sentenced Griffin to life in prison with the possibility for parole in 1983 for the strangulation murder of another Oahu woman in 1980. Griffin went to prison but won release on parole in 1996.

Takata said he believes Griffin is a sexual predator who was on his way to becoming a serial killer.

A motorist found Luka unconscious near the Ka Uka Boulevard onramp to the H-2 freeway Sept. 6, 1999. Luka died a month later, never having regained consciousness.

Griffin was also on trial for first-degree sexual assault. The jury found him not guilty.

“;It's curious, but it doesn't really concern us because we got what we really wanted. I added the sex assault charge on before we indicted him eight years after the fact because that's my theory as to what happened,”; Takata said.

He said he believes rape was Griffin's motive in killing Luka.

Luka's murder was one of Honolulu police's unsolved cases until they matched DNA from semen recovered from Luka with Griffin's DNA in 2007.

Griffin did not challenge the DNA evidence. He claims he had consensual sex with Luka more than 24 hours before the motorist found her. And his wife testified Griffin was at home with her when Luka was attacked.

Another piece of evidence the state presented during trial is the size 10 pants Luka was wearing when the motorist found her.

“;For Evelyn, being 5-foot-7, maybe about 125 pounds, we knew that there was no way that those pants could have been hers,”; said Leilani Tan, deputy prosecutor.

Tan said the state was able to establish that Griffin's wife wore size 10 pants at the time and believes Griffin put the pants on Luka to try to cover his crime.