Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A former producer of the MSNBC show “Lockup” denied that jailers helped her arrange an interview with a double murder defendant in violation of his constitutional rights, which is a core argument in his attorney’s attempt to get the death penalty dismissed, records obtained Tuesday show.

Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders has been building a case of outrageous governmental misconduct based largely around claims that Orange County sheriff’s deputies move inmates around so that jailhouse snitches can surreptitiously gather incriminating evidence for prosecutors.

Sanders has alleged the conspiracy in his two pending death penalty cases involving Daniel Wozniak, an accused double murder who allegedly dismembered one of his victims, and Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in Orange County history.

The difference in the Wozniak case is that Sanders’ client appeared on the MSNBC program, and he has alleged that sheriff’s deputies helped arrange for the “Lockup” interview so the defendant would make comments that hurt his case.

Attorneys for NBC and 44 Blue Productions, which produced “Lockup,” have argued that Wozniak did not say anything incriminating in the interview.

“To the contrary, Wozniak denies that he committed the murders, describes his surprise when he was arrested during his bachelor party, explains how he attempted suicide after his arrest, and professes his love for the Bible,” their court papers state.

The attorneys went on to say Wozniak described himself as a “good guy … I’m easygoing. I enjoy long walks on the beach. I’m an Aries.”

In a hearing last week on Sanders’ request for more time to file a motion making his case, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy accused Sanders of being a serial accuser who has claimed prosecutorial misconduct in 16 of his cases and of conducting a “witch hunt” in the Wozniak case.

Murphy said he has repeatedly asked Sanders to produce some evidence that the producer, Suzanne Ali, coordinated the interview with Deputy Ben Garcia, a key figure in the Dekraai case alleging outrageous governmental misconduct.

Ali told investigator Vivian Tabb that Garcia was not there when she decided to put Wozniak on camera and that no one suggested she interview that particular defendant.

Ali said she was fishing for candidates in the jail to appear on the show when she noticed Wozniak.

“Ali stated that she remembered walking through his housing unit and noticed this tall, handsome man wearing a jumpsuit that was four sizes too small and when they made eye contact with each other, he gave her a big fake actor’s type grin,” Tabb said in court papers.

“Ms. Ali explained that before the interview started, she received a written waiver from Mr. Wozniak and it was made clear to him that he was being interviewed for a television show,” Murphy said in court papers opposing the rescheduling of Wozniak’s trial.

“Ms. Ali said that at no time were sheriff’s personnel involved in the interview; the deputies did not suggest, encourage, or write any questions for her to ask Mr. Wozniak. Additionally, contrary to Mr. Sanders claims, Ms. Ali verified that Deputy Ben Garcia was not present during the interview of Mr. Wozniak,” Tabb said.

Sanders ridiculed the claims.

“A lot of coincidences seem to happen in that jail,” Sanders told City News Service.

At last week’s hearing, Murphy argued that Sanders has pointed a finger at 16 prosecutors over the years and that the claims never panned out.

Sanders said that is untrue and pointed to the fact that Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals found there was misconduct in the Dekraai case on withholding evidence and the use of confidential informants.

Goethals, however, said the cases of misconduct were owed to negligence and not a criminal conspiracy.

Goethals has since decided to hold another hearing in January on newly surfaced documents that Sanders alleges show sheriff’s investigators lied in their testimony that they did not house a snitch in a cell next to Dekraai to catch him making incriminating comments.

After hearing months of testimony earlier this year, Goethals found that a nurse put the confidential informant next to Dekraai for medical reasons.

In both cases, Sanders is seeking to have the Orange County District Attorney’s Office removed from the prosecution in favor of the state Attorney General and to block the death penalty as a possible punishment.

Murphy has argued that he was the one who alerted Sanders to the “Lockup” interview as a professional courtesy and that he had no intention of using any part of the television appearance against the defendant in his trial.

Last week, Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler extended Sanders’ deadline for filing his outrageous governmental misconduct motion from this month until Jan. 23. But Stotler refused to budge on a Feb. 13 trial date.

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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