Two-time convicted killer must serve back-to-back life terms

Darnell Griffin
Darnell Griffin
Evelyn Luka
Evelyn Luka
(left) James Morimoto
(left) James Morimoto
Leilani Tan
Leilani Tan

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - An Oahu man convicted of a cold case killing faced the victim's grieving family and proclaimed his innocence, moments before being ordered to serve consecutive life sentences Wednesday.

It's Darnell Griffin's second murder conviction.

During his trial in April, Griffin chose to remain silent and not testify. On Wednesday, he had a lot to say.

"All rise. Court is reconvened," the court clerk announced.

A decade after Evelyn Luka's violent death, the tears haven't stopped.

"My family will be affected for the rest of our lives," James Morimoto, victim's brother, said. "We will never have the love and support of my sister again."

Darnell Griffin admits he met Luka at Venus Nite Club and had sex with her, but maintains someone else strangled her and left her to die along the H-2 Freeway in Waipio.

"Life without parole is the only option barring execution," Morimoto said.

Prosecutors say Griffin, who previously served 15 years in prison for murdering a woman in 1980, should be given a life term with no chance of parole.

"Imagine the horror those ladies went through knowing they were being killed," Kevin Takata, deputy prosecutor, said. "Life behind bars is much more compassion than he showed."

The defense argues a sentence of life with the possibility of parole is drastic enough.

"To the family, me and my family, you know, have feelings for your family," the convicted murderer said to the victim's family. "But you're in error by saying that I did not learn. I did not commit this crime."

He shows the court what he believes is evidence of his innocence.

"You have a right to be angry. Yes, you do," Griffin said. "But you should be angry that justice wasn't served."

But the judge grants the prosecution's request and sentences the two-time convicted killer to life in prison without parole.

"We are extremely happy with today's sentencing and disgusted with what Mr. Griffin had to say," Leilani Tan, deputy prosecutor, said.

Authorities say this was a cold case until DNA evidence from the victim's rape kit linked Griffin to the crime.

"We're going to have a safer community," Adriana Ramelli, Sex Abuse Treatment Center, said. "Women will not be harmed by this person again."

The life sentence Griffin received Wednesday will begin after he goes back and completes a life term for his first murder.