A defense attorney asked an Orange County Superior Court judge Friday to step down from overseeing a double-murder suspect’s trial, which, if he agrees, would mark the fourth jurist switch in a month.
Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders asked Judge John Conley to recuse himself from presiding over the case of 30-year-old Daniel Wozniak, who is accused in the May 2010 killings of Samuel Eliezer Herr, 26, and Juri Julie Kibuishi, 23.
Sanders signaled in earlier filings that he does not think he can get a fair trial for his client before any of Orange County’s judges and may seek recusal of all of them.
Conley said he would file a response to Sanders. The defendant’s Feb. 13 trial date was scratched, and the attorneys are scheduled to return to court Feb. 20.
Judge James Stotler recused himself Jan. 27, saying he no longer felt he could be impartial. Stotler stepped down amid defense allegations of misconduct in how Orange County prosecutors and sheriff’s officials use jailhouse snitches.
The case was then assigned to Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals, who is presiding over the case of convicted mass killer Scott Dekraai and is considering renewed allegations of misconduct in that case. Sanders also represents Dekraai.
Prosecutors, however, objected to Goethals, which landed the case in Conley’s court.
Sanders wants the District Attorney’s Office kicked off the case — the same remedy he’s seeking in Dekraai’s upcoming penalty phase trial.
Sanders has argued that the informants are being used to illegally solicit incriminating evidence against other inmates.
At issue in Wozniak’s case is the contact the defendant had with informant Fernando Perez.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy has pointed out that Perez was not yet working for the government when he befriended Wozniak and would not be a witness in the trial anyway.
Also at issue in the Wozniak case is an interview the defendant did for the MSNBC program “Lockup.” Sanders alleges the interview was a set up by the defendant’s jailers to make him look bad, but the producer of the program said she was not directed by sheriff’s officials to interview Wozniak.
Wozniak’s alleged victims were friends. He is accused of killing Herr at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base and using the man’s cell phone to lure Kibuishi home to her Costa Mesa apartment, where he allegedly shot and dismembered her, then disposed of the body parts at the Eldorado Park Nature Center in Long Beach.
— City News Service