Death penalty off the table in transgender murder case 

Prosecutors took the death penalty off the table Thursday for a man accused in the rape and murder of a transgender woman, a 2007 case in which DNA samples lay untested for two years before a hit was made.

Donzell Francis, 42, allegedly raped and killed Ruby Rodriguez, also known as Ruby Ordenana, whose body was found on a Potrero Hill sidewalk on March 16, 2007.

Though Francis’ DNA was already on file from prior convictions, the DNA lab didn’t match a sample from Ordenana to him until 2009 when he was in custody on another sexual assault case. Police have acknowledged the understaffed lab had a severe backlog for DNA testing, including in homicide and sex assault cases.

Francis was convicted last year of sexually assaulting, beating and robbing a transgender prostitute in the Tenderloin in September 2007. He was sentenced to nearly 18 years in prison, and three months later, prosecutors charged him with similar attacks on two other transgender prostitutes including the rape and strangling of Ordenana.

Francis’ case is the second special-circumstances murder case for which District Attorney George Gascón has declined to seek the death penalty. While Gascón has expressed concerns about the death penalty, he has refused to explicitly rule it out, saying he would only pursue it in "very heinous" cases.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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