Lady Justice 3 16-9

A defense attorney and Orange County prosecutor are expected to clash in court Friday over a postponement of a double-murder defendant’s death penalty trial so the defense can pursue evidence of alleged governmental misconduct.

The last time the attorneys met to discuss the trial of Daniel Patrick Wozniak, Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler gave the defendant’s attorney until today to file a motion to have the Orange County District Attorney’s Office removed from the case and the death penalty taken away as punishment for alleged misconduct claims.

Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, who represents Wozniak and Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in Orange County history, filed an abbreviated version of the motion late Thursday and is seeking a delay in the trial.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy filed a response this week slamming Sanders’ tactics, accusing him of filing misconduct claims against nearly every prosecutor he has faced, including two who are now judges.

Those claims from Murphy has prompted Sanders to signal that he will ask all judges in the county to recuse themselves from overseeing Wozniak’s trial.

Sanders wants Stotler to schedule a pretrial hearing for Feb. 27, well past the scheduled Feb. 13 trial date, which has been postponed several times. Sanders wants to file his full motion alleging governmental misconduct on Feb. 27.

In the Dekraai case, Sanders’ motion was more than 500 pages and led to months of evidentiary hearings before another judge, who found misconduct occurred, but that it was due to negligence, not a criminal conspiracy.

However, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said he limited his analysis to just Dekraai’s case and will soon hold hearings based on newfound evidence that may contradict testimony from sheriff’s officials, who said they had nothing to do with placing Dekraai in a cell next to a government informant to collect damning information from the defendant, which would have violated Dekraai’s constitutional rights because he was by then represented by attorneys.

Informants can listen for incriminating statements but cannot elicit them.

If Stotler refuses Sanders’ request, the attorney said he would file a motion to dismiss charges, according to legal papers he filed this week. Sanders said he needs more time to gather evidence regarding Murphy’s claims that the attorney is a serial accuser of prosecutorial misconduct.

Sanders has been pushing prosecutors to provide any correspondence between Murphy and his fellow prosecutors as well as the two judges.

Murphy argued in his response that Sanders’ request is overly broad, that he is not entitled to that information, and that there has been no correspondence anyway.

Murphy also contradicted Sanders’ arguments that his claims all had merit and that the attorney misrepresented what happened in each case.

“Mr. Sanders has accused 16 different prosecutors of misconduct in 13 separate cases,” Murphy said in his motion.

As for Sanders’ complaints that prosecutors have withheld evidence from defense attorneys in violation of the law, Murphy said Sanders has not lived up to a rule that compels him to provide prosecutors with information about expert witnesses in Wozniak’s death penalty trial.

“This case is four and a half years old and we have yet to receive a single meaningful page of discovery from the defense,” Murphy wrote. “The defense isn’t simply permitted to call opposing counsel, or sitting members of the Orange County bench, because they want to.”

City News Service

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