Six years after he mutilated the body of one victim and attempted to throw authorities off the trail by framing that victim for the murder of someone else, community theater actor Daniel Patrick Wozniak will face a judge Friday who will decide whether to go along with a jury’s recommendation that he be executed.
Wozniak was convicted in December of the killings of 26-year-old Samuel Eliezer Herr and 23-year-old Julie Kibuishi, and jurors recommended capital punishment in January. A motion for a new trial also will be heard today.
Wozniak was deep in debt in May 2010, facing eviction and without money for his pending wedding, when he concocted a money-acquisition plan to kill his neighbor, Herr, and throw police off the trail by making it look like Herr murdered and raped Kibuishi, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy argued at trial.
Wozniak, who grew up in Long Beach, further tried to confound investigators by dismembering Herr and dumping the body parts in the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, Murphy said.
The case was long delayed by allegations raised by Wozniak’s attorney, Scott Sanders, who claimed outrageous governmental misconduct in the use of a confidential informant. He has raised similar allegations, with greater success, in his other client’s case — Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the county’s history.
Unlike the judge in Dekraai’s case, Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley hasn’t been as receptive to Sanders’ arguments regarding conspiracies to use informants to elicit confessions out of jail inmates in ways that violate their constitutional rights.
On Wednesday, Sanders, sought another delay — this time three weeks — so he could respond to criticism from Murphy, who argued in a motion that there’s no reason to delay today’s sentencing of the 32-year-old defendant.
Murphy’s motion was a response to Sanders’ request for a new trial, which was filed Sept. 2 but subsequently sealed. Conley unsealed it Wednesday after going over what parts should be redacted because Sanders’ motion contains information about confidential informants.
Tempers flared at Wednesday’s hearing, particularly between Sanders and Conley over the requested rescheduling of the sentencing. Conley brushed aside Sanders’ arguments that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office can’t be trusted to turn over evidence as legally required.
Sanders argued that he should be allowed to refute Murphy’s allegations that he has cried foul against prosecutors in virtually every case he’s been assigned.
“I don’t think it’s important,” Conley said. “I think the bickering between you two has clouded your judgment… I’m interested in Mr. Wozniak’s case only.”
The judge added, “Both of you, for your own egos, want to set the record straight and I’m not going to delay the sentencing for that.”
Herr’s father said he hopes there isn’t another delay on today as servicemen who fought alongside his son in Afghanistan are planning to fly in to California for the hearing.
“These guys fought and got wounded with Sam and now they’re going to be here facing his murderer and Julie’s murderer,” Steve Herr said.
—City News Service