Jurors in the trial of Anthony McKnight, who lived in Oakland and was assigned to the Alameda Naval Air Station at the time of the alleged killings in 1985, were presented the case late today after the attorneys in the case concluded two-and-a-half days of closing arguments.
Jurors didn't reach a verdict today and will resume their deliberations Tuesday morning.
Prosecutor Jim Meehan said in his closing argument last week that McKnight "made a cold, calculated decision to kill" the five young women and "nothing suggests he acted with a rash impulse."
Meehan said McKnight "knew what he was doing" and chose isolated locations, such as parks and industrial areas, to kill his victims.
But Alex Selvin, one of two defense attorneys who represent McKnight, said, "We don't have any evidence for first-degree murder because all of the evidence in this case is circumstantial."
That's because all of the five alleged victims were unable to testify since they're dead and McKnight testified two weeks ago that he never met any of the women, whose ages ranged from 13 to 24, Selvin said.
Selvin said that if jurors don't think the alleged murders were premeditated and weren't committed during a felony, such as rape or sodomy, they must convicted McKnight only of second-degree murder, not first-degree murder.
McKnight faces the death penalty because he's charged with five counts of murder plus six special circumstances clauses, which are for committing murder during rape and sodomy and for multiple murders.
If jurors convict McKnight of at least one count of first-degree murder with special circumstances, there will be a separate penalty phase at which jurors will choose between recommending the death penalty or life in prison.
McKnight won't face the death penalty if he's only convicted of second-degree murder and isn't convicted of any first-degree murder charges.
The circumstantial evidence in the case largely consists of DNA evidence, such as McKnight's semen, which Meehan said connects McKnight to all the alleged murders.
Meehan told jurors that in three of the cases, only one in 27 billion people have the same genetic profile as McKnight and the semen samples found on each of the three bodies.
He said in the other two cases, only one in 174 trillion people had the same genetic profile as that which was found on the two bodies.
McKnight is already serving a 63-year term in state prison because he was convicted in August 1987 of 11 felony counts, including attempted murder, mayhem, kidnapping and forced oral copulation, for attacks on six prostitutes between 1984 and his arrest in January of 1986.
After he began serving his prison sentence, authorities used new DNA analysis techniques to connect McKnight to the alleged murders, which occurred between September and December of 2005.
The incidents took place in secluded locations in Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley and Richmond.