[symple_googlemap title=”15800 block of Sharon Hill Drive” location=”15800 block of Sharon Hill Drive” height=”300″ zoom=”15″]
A state appeals court panel Thursday upheld the second- degree murder conviction of a woman who claimed she accidentally shot her husband while handling a gun in their Whittier-area home nearly a decade ago.
Linda Doreen Gwozdz contended that a Norwalk judge committed prejudicial error when he refused to allow jurors to hear about statements she made to a Los Angeles County sheriff’s detective who was among the law enforcement officers who responded to her 911 call following the April 26, 2007, shooting death of her husband.
But a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found that Linda Doreen Gwozdz “failed to take the necessary steps to preserve this issue for appellate review.”
“On the basis of the record before us, we cannot say that the trial court acted arbitrarily, capriciously or in a patently absurd manner by sustaining the people’s hearsay objection to testimony by (sheriff’s) Detective Bruce Goldowski about Gwozdz’s statements to him at the house. Accordingly, we uphold the trial court’s decision,” the justices found in a 13-page ruling.
The appellate court panel ruled that Gwozdz “makes a reasonable case that her statements to Goldowski may have been admissible as spontaneous declarations,” but that the defense had failed to make an “offer of proof” asking the judge to further hear the defense’s contention that the evidence was admissible. The prosecution then could have argued that Gwozdz’s statements to the detective were “not excited utterances, but calculated self-serving testimonials,” the panel noted.
The justices declined to review the defense’s claim that Gwozdz received ineffective assistance from her trial attorney.
The appellate court justices upheld her conviction without prejudice to any rights Gwozdz may have involving a petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which she could challenge her imprisonment.
Gwozdz was convicted in January 2015 of second-degree murder by the second jury to hear the case against her. The first jury to hear the case deadlocked on the murder charge.
Gwozdz, known at the time of the shooting as Linda Duffey, insisted the gun went off accidentally while she was handling her husband’s .38-caliber revolver in their home in the 15800 block of Sharon Hill Drive.
Patrick Duffey, 50, was shot twice in the top of the head, according to Deputy District Attorney Robert Villa.
Just before being sentenced in April 2015 to 40 years to life in prison, Gwozdz said, “This was a horrible accident, and I’ve been aware of everyone’s pain from day one.”
The couple’s two sons also spoke on behalf of their mother, with Thomas Duffey describing his mother as a person who scoops crickets up and takes them outside and “won’t even kill a spider.”
“I believe she’s innocent,” he said then.
Her new husband, Lawrence Gwozdz, told Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio that he met his wife through a dating website in 2008 and made an “immediate” connection with “a wonderful Christian human being.”
“She openly shared the story of this tragic accident and I do mean accident,” Lawrence Gwozdz said of his wife. “She spoke of her husband to me lovingly … as her best friend … There is absolutely no way that this was purposeful … I assert that the jury made a huge mistake with this verdict.”
Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives investigated the case for five years, during which the defendant moved to Mississippi and married Gwozdz. She was charged with murder in May 2012, brought back to Los Angeles and has remained jailed since then.
After the sentencing, the prosecutor said the motive for the shooting was unclear.
“Two shots is not an accident,” Villa said. “All I needed to see was the way he was laying on the couch and two holes in his head.”
Outside court, Patrick Duffey’s sister, Kathy Hunt, said, “I think I’m 100 percent sure she did it. I have no qualms or no questions about that. I don’t know why she did it and that will probably bother me for a long time.”
She said of the guilty verdict, “It was a real bittersweet feeling. I really felt good about it, but I felt sad about it at the same time. I was really hoping that that’s what they would say and was happy they said it, but on the other hand, it was final.”
–City News Service