Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

An accused double murderer was dealt several legal setbacks Tuesday from a state appeals court and an Orange County Superior Court judge, potentially clearing the way for his death-penalty trial to begin soon.

Daniel Patrick Wozniak’s attorneys still have motions pending to have the death penalty removed as a possible sentence based on claims of outrageous governmental misconduct, and to have an evidentiary hearing held to explore allegations about the use of jailhouse informants.

Tuesday, Superior Court Judge John Conley denied another attempt to have the Orange County District Attorney’s Office removed from the case. He also denied a motion to delay the trial, which is scheduled to begin Friday.

Conley also denied a motion from Wozniak’s attorneys requesting evidence from cases involving the use of jailhouse informants dating back to the 1980s.

Meanwhile, the Fourth District Court of Appeal denied the legal team’s attempt to get a new judge to preside over Wozniak’s case and to make Conley and another jurist testify in a hearing on the governmental misconduct claims.

On July 29, Conley denied a motion to recuse the District Attorney’s Office, and, referring to the latest attempt, Conley said, “We’re going over the same issues.”

Conley said Wozniak’s attorneys failed to show that the District Attorney’s Office has a conflict and that the conflict would prohibit the defendant from getting a fair trial.

“The law is clear that recusal is not a remedy for legal errors,” Conley said. “And it’s not a punishment for past prosecutorial misconduct.”

Conley noted that prosecutors do not intend to use jailhouse informant Fernando Perez as a witness or use any of the statements Wozniak made as evidence. The judge, as he has earlier, said an interview Wozniak gave to the MSNBC program “Lockup” was not damaging to his case and included mostly “exculpatory” statements, pushing aside the defense’s allegations that the defendant’s jailers manipulated the interview to make him look bad.

Wozniak’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, will continue on Thursday pushing Conley to hold an evidentiary hearing into allegations of misconduct on the part of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Sanders prevailed in a similar hearing in his defense of Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the county’s history, that led to a judge booting the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from the case, a ruling that is under appeal.

In Wozniak’s case, Sanders alleges that his client’s rights were violated when Perez spoke to Wozniak in jail. After a defendant has an attorney it is illegal for the government to have an informant question the inmate, Sanders said.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy has said he did not direct deputies to have Perez speak with Wozniak and would not use anything the defendant said anyway because it was duplicative of Wozniak’s alleged confession. Murphy has argued that Costa Mesa police were the lead law enforcement agency on the case, not the sheriff, and that his office cannot, therefore, be accused of outrageous governmental misconduct.

Sanders has argued there is evidence of corruption in the use of informants going back to the 1980s, which is why he wants Conley, who was then a prosecutor, to testify as a witness. Sanders also wants Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens to testify in the evidentiary hearing.

If Conley denies the evidentiary hearing, Wozniak’s trial could possibly begin Friday with attorneys working on various motions. Jury selection will take longer than usual because it is a death penalty case, so opening statements likely would not occur until at least mid-November.

Wozniak is accused of shooting Samuel Herr after luring him to the Los Alamitos Joint Forces military base in May 2010.

Prosecutors allege he then used the victim’s cell phone to trick another friend, Juri Kibuishi, into going to Herr’s Costa Mesa apartment. There the defendant shot her and then made it look as if Herr killed her during a sexual assault, authorities allege.

Wozniak then allegedly returned to the base to dismember Herr’s body, according to authorities.

He allegedly committed the crimes to steal from the victims to pay for his wedding and honeymoon, prosecutors said.

— Wire reports 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *