Two years and one day after Lionel Blanks Jr. carjacked, assaulted and tried to murder a woman who had parked her car along El Camino Real in Palo Alto, a jury found the Santa Clara felon guilty of the brutal attack.
Prosecutors say his potential sentence fits his crimes: 100 years to life in prison.
His victim, a woman in her 20s known only as "Jane Doe," said Blanks' actions on May 22, 2010, robbed her of her smile and her happiness. The savage beating, rape and attempted strangulation he meted out made her feel "naked to the world," Doe told jurors during the week-and-a-half trial in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Doe testified she was napping at night in her Mercedes Benz SUV under a bright streetlight on El Camino Real, a short distance from Serra Street. She had had a few drinks with friends at a local bar and became lost while trying to drive to her South Bay home. She pulled over to a place she thought was safe to nap and awoke covered in shattered glass.
Blanks grabbed her by the throat and dragged her from her vehicle. He pounded her head into the concrete pavement so many times and with such force her head was bouncing like a basketball, she told the jury.
Blanks bound her and threw her into the back of her SUV, then drove to Westwood Elementary School in Santa Clara. He dragged her from the vehicle, then raped and beat her in the elementary school field. Then he squeezed her throat, cutting off her breath. She only survived the attack because she was able to fake her death, she said.
"This was a particularly brutal and violent crime, and I'm so glad that the system worked, and the jury held him accountable for the injuries he inflicted," Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Erin West said Thursday. "The victim is pleased with the verdict, and she's grateful. But she still has a lot of healing to do. Listening to her testify, there was a lot of emotional damage."
The victim's testimony still resonates with West.
"'He took my smile. He took my happiness,'" West recalled Doe said. The victim's jaw and teeth were so damaged from the pavement battering, for many months she had a crooked smile.
"Because she was so obviously injured, when she went to the store, she felt like people could see what had happened to her, and people knew she had been raped and beaten, and she felt naked and very exposed to the world," West said.
The trial began May 14. The jury of six men and six women returned the verdict after deliberating just one day. A prior strike allegation for a 1991 assault with a deadly weapon conviction was found to be true, which will also count toward Blanks' sentencing.
Blanks showed no reaction. His mother left the courtroom after the first count's verdict was read, West said.
The jury was composed of "a good cross section" of ages and races, West said. She praised Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Gilda Valeros as "a very good attorney." But in the end, there wasn't much the defense could do, she said. DNA evidence taken from the victim matched a DNA profile from Blanks.
Valeros could not be reached for comment. Blanks is scheduled for sentencing on July 20.
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