Man gets life without parole in second murder conviction


POSTED: Thursday, July 02, 2009

Darnell Griffin, who insisted in court yesterday that he did not strangle 20-year-old Evelyn Luka, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

;[Preview]  Darnell Griffin Makes A Scene In Circuit Court

The judge stopped Darnell Griffin, and sentenced him to consecutive life terms without parole after he stood up and tried to argue his innocence today in a bizarre performance.

Watch ]


Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario sentenced Griffin to life in prison without the possibility for parole yesterday for the 1999 strangulation of Luka. He ordered Griffin to start serving the sentence after he completes a separate life prison term with the opportunity for parole for a 1980 murder.

The normal penalty for second-degree murder is life in prison with the possibility for parole. Griffin qualified for the life prison term without parole for Luke's murder because of the earlier murder.

Griffin, 50, said he accepts responsibility for the 1980 strangulation death of Lynn Marie Gherardi, for which a jury found him guilty of murder and for which he spent 14 years in prison before gaining release on parole.

But he says he did not strangle Luka, though the jury found him guilty, and he pleaded his case to Luka's family, who showed up for his sentencing yesterday.

“;During trial, all of the witnesses of this crime, not one was asked to point me out, not one pointed me out,”; Griffin said.

He said he is not the person with whom witnesses saw Luka leave a nightclub hours before she was found beaten, strangled and raped near an H-2 freeway on-ramp.

Deputy Prosecutor Leilani Tan said she was disgusted by Griffin's actions in court.

“;(It) is an example of the audacity of this man who has the nerve, after a jury of his peers convicted him, to come up there to have the nerve to address the family and try to claim some kind of innocence,”; she said.

Luka's brother James Morimoto urged Del Rosario to send Griffin to prison for the rest of his life to prevent him from murdering or hurting anybody else.

“;Life without parole is the only option barring execution,”; he said.

A motorist found Luka unconscious near the Ka Uka Boulevard on-ramp Sept. 6, 1999. She died a month later without regaining consciousness.

Honolulu police had no solid leads and the investigation went cold until they matched DNA from semen recovered from Luka with Griffin's DNA in 2007.

Sex Abuse Treatment Center Director Adriana Ramelli said Luka's case highlights the importance for victims to report whenever they are sexually assaulted so they can undergo a so-called rape-kit examination.

“;We in this state have the best protocol when it comes to forensic evidence collection,”; she said.