A defense attorney alleging governmental misconduct in the case of a double-murder defendant has alerted an Orange County Superior Court judge that he does not think he can get a fair trial here and wants all of the county’s jurists to recuse themselves.
Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders — who has lodged similar allegations of governmental misconduct in the case of the worst mass killer in Orange County history, Scott Dekraai — indicated his intention to file a recusal motion in legal papers seeking a court order forcing prosecutors to provide more evidence in the case of Daniel Patrick Wozniak. Both Dekraai, who has pleaded guilty, and Wozniak, who is awaiting trial, face the death penalty.
“I thought it was the right time to put (the judge and prosecution) on notice… that we are going to seek a recusal,” Sanders said of his motion, which was filed on Friday.
Sanders plans to argue that since Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy has accused the defense attorney of frequently alleging prosecutorial misconduct, including two cases involving now sitting judges, that it puts Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler in a difficult spot.
“By setting me against judges the court is kind of put in a position that if they rule with me then they’re embracing this notion that the judges themselves committed misconduct in the past,” Sanders told City News Service.
Last month, Sanders requested prosecutors release “any and all writings and/or communications between members of your office, local law enforcement and/or the judiciary, which included reference to allegations of misconduct that were purportedly made by me prior to January 31, 2014.”
Prosecutors have refused to comply so far, prompting Sanders to seek a court order from Stotler.
Murphy, in a response filed this week, slammed the request.
“In the last 12 months, Mr. Sanders has publicly attacked the ethics of 11 prosecutors, four deputy sheriffs, three Santa Ana police officers and one Anaheim police detective,” Murphy said in the motion. “He has done so without consequence, and without a single finding in support of his many claims of conspiracy. It should come as no surprise he is now apparently attempting to broaden his accusations to include members of the Orange County judiciary. He makes this request without any offer of proof or evidence in support of its materiality.”
Murphy denied any “communications with members of the bench, police officers or other prosecutors to which the defense is even remotely entitled.” The only relevant communications that Sanders would be entitled to would be conversations with Stotler, which has not happened, Murphy said in court papers.
“Rather than spend his time preparing to address the salient issues in this impending trial, Mr. Sanders has apparently once again chosen to focus his energies in the pursuit of personal vendetta” instead of preparing for trial in seven weeks, Murphy wrote.
A year ago, Sanders filed a 505-page motion alleging governmental misconduct in the case of Dekraai, claiming his jailers would move inmate informants around to illegally gather evidence and that prosecutors withheld evidence they were legally required to turn over to defense attorneys. The motion led to weeks of evidentiary hearings that culminated with Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals ruling that misconduct occurred, but that it was mostly due to negligence rather than a criminal conspiracy.
Goethals, however, limited his findings to Dekraai’s case and did not rule on allegations regarding multiple other defendants. He also refused to grant Sanders’ request to have the Orange County District Attorney’s Office removed from the prosecution and to prohibit prosecutors from seeking the death penalty.
Goethals, however, will hold an evidentiary hearing on Friday 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. Goethals earlier ruled that a nurse made the decision to house Dekraai next to the informant for medical reasons only.
Sanders has until Jan. 23 to file a similar motion in the Wozniak case. Sanders has alleged that Wozniak’s jailers helped arrange to have his client appear on the MSNBC show “Lockup,” in violation of his constitutional rights.
A former producer, however, denied in court papers that anyone helped arrange the interview and that she decided to put him on the show when she happened to spot the one-time thespian in the jail flashing an “actor’s grin.”
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 Costa Mesa 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