An Orange County Superior Court judge on Tuesday gave a defense attorney more time to make the case of government misconduct in the prosecution of double-murder defendant Daniel Wozniak, but refused to again change the date of the trial, which is set for February.
Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, who has made headlines alleging a widespread conspiracy of using jailhouse informants to illegally obtain information against defendants, including in the case of the worst mass killer in Orange County history, is trying to make the same argument in the case against Wozniak.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy, however, argued the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has had nothing to do with the investigation of Wozniak, who was arrested by Costa Mesa police. The veteran prosecutor also accused Sanders of filing claims of misconduct against 16 prosecutors over the years, with none of the allegations panning out.
“At some point, the shrill cry of villainy has to be regarded as the cry of wolf,” Murphy told Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler.
Stotler had given Sanders until Wednesday to file a massive legal brief making his case of outrageous governmental misconduct, as he did in the case against Scott Dekraai, which led to months of hearings before another judge. Sanders, however, said newly surfaced evidence in the Dekraai case is connected to how Wozniak’s jailers treated him and argued he needed more time to file his motion.
Stotler allowed Sanders until Jan. 23 to make the filing, which is expected to mirror the one in the Dekraai case, which was hundreds of pages long and included thousands of pages of exhibits.
As he did in the Dekraai case, Sanders is expected to ask Stotler to boot the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from the prosecution and to prohibit prosecutors from seeking the death penalty
“I’m telling you now that deadline won’t be met,” Sanders told Stotler.
“Well, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” the judge said. “That trial date’s going to remain. Right now, I see this as a never-ending process … It’s just going to go on and on and on. That’s my feeling now.”
Stotler reminded Sanders, “I’ve given you months to file this stuff.”
Wozniak’s trial had been set for March of this year and then it was expected to happen over the summer, but each time Sanders argued he needed to keep researching the governmental misconduct allegations.
“You bought into all this stuff that I’m a serial accuser,” Sanders told the judge, who quickly replied, “I haven’t bought into anything … We need to get this case going.”
Murphy argued that the mother of one of the victims has colon cancer, so the trial needs to happen before she is too sick or dies and cannot testify in the penalty phase. The father of one of the victims was also battling cancer, Murphy said.
“I haven’t done anything wrong, and these people are dying of cancer,” Murphy said.
Stotler today also granted Sanders’ motion to subpoena records, including the placement of inmates from cell to cell and in disciplinary isolation. Sanders is arguing that the sheriff’s department has illegally placed jailhouse snitches near defendants already represented by an attorney to pump them for damning information.
In Wozniak’s case, one confidential informant struck up a friendship with the defendant and told his handlers about it, but Murphy has said he does not want to use any of the information from the snitch in the trial so it’s a “moot point” whether Wozniak’s rights were violated.
Murphy also called some of the prosecutors that Sanders has accused of misconduct “some of the most hard-working, ethical people I have ever worked with.”
Murphy said Sanders was wasting time collecting an award this weekend in San Francisco for public defender of the year from the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and being the keynote speaker at another conference.
The claims of prosecutorial misconduct “is nothing new for Mr. Sanders,” Murphy said. “He’s been doing this for years.”
Two of the prosecutors Sanders has accused of misconduct went on to become judges, including one this year.
Sanders said the hearings in the Dekraai case led Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals to agree there was misconduct. Goethals, however, ruled the misconduct was more a case of negligence than a criminal conspiracy.
Goethals rejected Sanders’ motion to boot the District Attorney’s Office from the prosecution of Dekraai, but Sanders has asked the judge to reconsider based on recently unearthed information. The judge will hear arguments on that motion Jan. 16.
Wozniak, 30, is accused of the May 2010 slayings of Samuel Eliezer Herr, 26, and Juri Julie Kibuishi, 23. Wozniak allegedly killed Herr at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base and then lured Kibuishi to Herr’s apartment, where he allegedly shot her to death and took off some of her clothes to make it appear that Herr killed her.
He is also accused of dismembering Herr and disposing body parts in the El Dorado Park Nature Center in Long Beach. Authorities allege he killed Herr to steal Herr’s savings to pay for his wedding and honeymoon.
— City News Service
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