Waiting for the Punishment

For the last little while my blog has been all about the trial. I’ve been studying, questioning, and dissecting everything I’ve seen and heard and noticed. I took tons of notes. At some point I’m just going to suck it up and pay for the entire court transcript, though, because there is no way I caught it all.

I find it extremely interesting to see a trial unfold. What steps did the police take to solve the case? Was it the forensics? DNA? Maybe some video footage from a nearby security camera? And then there are the lawyers. Can I just tell you how cool I thought it was that I’d get to watch Matt Murphy in action? (I’d seen him on Dateline.)

Just from a courtroom junkie’s point of view, Daniel’s trial had it all. That’s why the media was always there in full force. But watching a court case on 48 Hours or 20/20 is a very different experience from being there in person. I wasn’t on the couch in my jammies. (I did sometimes eat snacks, though. Very quiet snacks.)

I had a personal interest in this case. This was my friend on trial. My friend who did some terrible and unforgivable things (and he’s the first to admit that), but still my friend.

You know, basically I do write this blog for myself. It’s a creative outlet, and it gives me a way to really scrutinize and investigate my friendship with Daniel, especially now that he is a convicted murderer.

I felt wound up and nervous when I sat in that courtroom. It was easy for people to figure out  I was there to support Daniel. He’d glance around and smile at me when he was walked in, and I’d see people turn around and try to figure me out. I knew that some of the principal players were reading my blog and I always felt this urge to explain myself. I wanted to tell people that I don’t think Daniel is innocent.  I don’t feel sorry for him that he’s in jail. I don’t doubt that he is a murderer, but I know he isn’t a monster.

I can already hear some of you typing your comments.

The jury did not agree with me. It took them less than an hour to decide Daniel should die.

When they went into deliberations at around 3:30, I don’t think anyone was expecting a verdict that day. Just in case, I had decided to hang around until 5:00 because that’s when the jury would go home for the day. A number of other people seemed to be doing the same thing.

Earlier that day, during the lunch break, I’d approached Mike the Bailiff to make a request.  I really wanted to be present when the jury came back with the verdict. Whether you believe Daniel deserves to have a friend or not, I was determined he’d have one in court when he learned his fate. So I wanted to know how I could get on a list of people who are notified when a verdict comes in.  The media people always seemed to know when things were happening and I thought there might be some kind of computerized contact list I could get on. I didn’t want a phone call or anything. I was just hoping for a group text.

I asked Mike if he knew who I was (Daniel’s friend). He smiled and said, “Hey there, blue hair.” Him quoting my blog made me laugh and helped me feel a little calmer (thanks, Mike).

Mike explained to me that there was no contact list. If I wanted to be notified, I would need to ask lead defense attorney Scott Sanders about it.

Gulp.

It’s ironic that even though I was there to support Daniel, I’d had virtually no contact with Scott. I wasn’t sure about his feeling on having a blogger write about his client at the same time he was trying to save the guy from the death penalty. The idea of approaching Scott made me nervous, but I was determined to not miss the reading of the verdict.

Remember, this was happening during the lunch break when I still thought the jury might actually take longer than 45 minutes to decide if Daniel should die.

So, I decided to muster my courage and try to talk to…Tracy LeSage Scott’s way-less-intense second in command.

When I saw the defense team getting off the elevator after lunch, I figured this was my best chance to get on that “group text” list I hoped existed. They all went into the courtroom, and I slipped in right after them.

Scott and Tracy were deep in discussion and pouring over paperwork, so I thought maybe I could get away with asking one of the young assistant lawyer guys about contacting me. I hoped I could discreetly give him my cell number and sneak away.

NOPE.

Scott stopped talking and looked up at me from his papers. As I choked out my request, I felt a tad out of place with my blue hair and tattoos. And I’m so short, I felt like a little kid standing in the middle of this sea of suit-wearing real grownups.

Scott Sanders looked perplexed. Then, he said that was fine, and to give my number to the other lawyer guy, who would call me when the verdict was in.

Calling. Old school.

Later, Daniel told me that Scott Sanders had asked him if it was okay for me to be contacted.  Daniel did want me called, but it turned out to be a moot point anyway.

I was one of the few people still in the courtroom when the phone rang on Mike the Bailiff’s desk. I figured it would just be the jury asking a question.  Maybe they needed a part of the transcript read back to them.  Perhaps they wanted some clarification on the specifics of a law.

Even Mike looked surprised when he announced that the jury already a verdict.

I stayed in my seat while the news spread to the people in the hallway. No one needed to be called on the phone.

I was more worried than I’d thought I’d be. I had always expected the jury would choose the death penalty, but inside me there was still a little battle going on between hope and fear. Admittedly, fear was kicking hope’s ass because of how fast the jury was coming back. There wasn’t nearly enough time for them to get all existential and decide that “an eye for an eye” might not be the way to go.

Sam’s and Julie’s loved ones sat all together in the center section in an obvious showing of solidarity. People  clung to each other and held hands.

I was surprised how quickly the water works came on me as soon as the verdict was announced. Lots of people were crying and wailing. It seemed more like tears of relief than of happiness, with an underlying feeling of heartbreak.

When it was all finished, the jury members smiled at the Herrs and the Kibuishis while they filed past them down the aisle. Eventually everyone had left the courtroom except me and Mike. I asked him if I could hang out for a few minutes and he obliged. I just couldn’t bring myself to go out in that crowded hallway quite yet.

I sat there with my face in my hands, crying for everyone.

23 thoughts on “Waiting for the Punishment”

  1. I think the jury got the verdict and sentence right in Daniel’s case. He’s a murderer and I don’t think he deserves sympathy, only the Herr and Kibuishi families do. With that being said, I enjoy your blog because it’s a fascinating perspective. I know the barrage of negative comments might be a lot to bear, so here’s some encouragement. Don’t stop doing something you love just because some people take offense to it. You’re not hurting anyone, you’re not saying what Daniel did was right, and you’ve been respectful and sensitive towards the victims and their families. On that note, do you plan on attending Rachel’s trial?

    1. Thank you very much. I truly appreciate your encouragement!

      I do plan to attend Rachel’s trial. I’m very interested in hearing that part of this story. I suspect Rachel will not testify either. I thought it was interesting that she wasn’t called as a witness in the case by either side.

      1. Do you plan to share your thoughts on her trial as well. I have an interest in seeing how the other side of this story goes. I follow(ed) Daniel’s case, and I too find your perspective quite interesting. I will be attending what I can of Rachel’s trial, but wont have a much time to dedicate as I did for Daniel’s.

        1. I will definitely blog about Rachel’s trial. I’m sure it will be a lot shorter and less intense than Daniel’s though. Honestly, I keep wondering if her case will be settled out of court. Except for Rachel giving conflicting statements about seeing a third man with Daniel and Sam, I haven’t heard of any real evidence against her, and in Daniel’s confession, he repeatedly denied that Rachel had any involvement in either murder.

  2. Yeah. When you look back and think about an hour and a half deliberation. You had to know Daniel was going to get the Death Penalty. I think the Julie murder was the definitely the biggest factor for many jurors in recommending the death sentence. When you watch the sentencing recommendation verdict be read, you could read Scott Sanders body language that he knew the Death Penalty was going to be given. You almost have to think the jury wanted a quick deliberation to give to the families of the victims. One less night of anxiety. I still don’t think Daniel should be put to death for these murders considering his confession and where the death penalty is these days in the state.

  3. Dear friend of Daniel,

    I’m writing to you from Spain, Europe, just to let you know how much I appreciate all the work and research you’ve done. I just watched the 20/20 documentary on the case and wanted to find out more about it.

    I find all of your blog’s entries really interesting. You start off by merely stating facts about the case, and as you keep writing and consequently growing your friendship with Daniel, it is more and more obvious that a little piece of your heart goes in on every word you write.

    The reason why I appreciate your work is not because you’ve convinced me of anything. Not even something you keep repeating: Daniel is not a monster. But because, unlike Daniel, you have the strenght and the heart to sympathise with another human being, to the extend that you can call him your friend.

    Having said all this, I have to say I am completely against the death penalty. We don’t have it in my country and I personally find it abominable. Watching the documentary on youtube, one of the jury members explained that the question he asked himself while deciding on the death penalty was: “Can I live with this?” His answer was: “yes, I can”. I really don’t understand how he can, because, regardless of what Daniel’s done, this too, is murdering. So this is the first time I actually feel pity for Daniel. He shouldn’t die. Not because his crimes aren’t horrible or because there is good inside him. He shouldn’t die in the hands of another human being because, evil or not, he too is a human being.

    Daniel is a murderer. A murderer of 2 innocent people. That makes him a monster to me. What he has done is beyond any possible understanding for me and I would totally understand it if he never gets forgiven for what he’s done by any of the victim’s family members. I don’t think I’b get to be such a good human being so that I could forgive him for that. My thoughts and prayers are with Sam and Julie. 2 people who never had the chance to experience life to the full. 2 people who were taken away the opportunity to feel, to fail, to win, to EXIST.

    And because existing is the most precious, individual and untouchable thing all of us have, existing should never be in the equation as a penalty.

    Having said all this, Sam and Julie… wherever you are, you will be remembered and loved even by people like me who never touched your lives.

    1. Spain is beutiful! I just thought I’d say that. I visited once. Tapas. Yum.

      You know, I completely understand when someone says that they can’t see any good inside Daniel. Maybe I am more able to do so because I speak with him in person. But I do not feel sorry for him at all. He broke two families. So many lives have been irreparably damaged because of his actions. But I don’t believe in the death penalty, and I think Daniel’s life can still have some meaning.
      Thank you for writing the comment.

  4. Dear Author, You said you were planning to go to Rachel Buffett’s trial. Do you also plan to go to Daniel’s brother’s Tim’s trial too? I always thought it was very suspicious how he had many very key pieces of evidence (Sam’s bloody clothes, passport, checkbook, and the gun.) Looks too, like Tim has a history of Meth charges too within Orange County. Also, I thought it was suspicious how the chain of communication when Daniel called from Costa Mesa PD attached the three (Dan, Rachel, Tim) so closely to the case at a crucial time (When Dan needed to confess). I think all three were in it. Daniel’s confession pinched the investigation among the other two.

    1. I’m not sure if Tim will go to trial. Do you know something that I don’t know?
      Yes, I would want to be there. And would Daniel be called as a witness?

      1. No, I am just wondering. I just have a hard time believing that Daniel’s brother Tim would receive a bunch of evidence in a backpack and not question what’s inside. Also, didn’t Tim provide for Daniel to use the gun that belonged to their father?

  5. Daniel may have been insane when he committed these murders and then planned a cover. He was in love with a terrible young girl who manipulated him. He needed and would do anything to keep this young lady. Many a young man has been forced to commit heinous crimes at the behest of another. I’m afraid of Rachel – she is a manipulative monster. Daniel is not the monster. Daniel never did anything like this before – psychopaths are born not created in an instant in adulthood.

    1. That’s an interesting theory. I have to say, it sounds like you may have known Daniel before he was with Rachel.

  6. He deserves to be decapitated after being shot in the head two times. What a piece of shit. Murder deserves death. Justice should be served on that scumbag. All for money….

  7. I’m curious if Daniel accomplished anything before the muders?

    Does he plan to do anything in prison?

    What are Daniels hobbies?

  8. Hello,
    I do have a question: what was Daniels demenor during the prosecutions witness? specifically the parents of the victims? Did he shed any tears? Or was he stoic?

  9. What a crock of shit. Rachel is not a terrible woman she in no way ever could possibly manipulate anyone to murder two people savagely that’s so stupid to think Dan has many mental issues and always has. Such bullshit to blame her saying she manipulated him and he is not the monster. Peoples Stupidity baffles me.

  10. Dan always has been a liar, and I imagine that he is lying just as much now as he used to. The only difference being that when he would lie in the past it seemed to be about inconsequential things, now it seems he has moved on to lies about much more important things. The whole thing is sad all around.

  11. Regardless of Rachel’s influence on Dan, there is no logic by which he can escape the ultimate responsibility for his act, nor his obvious lack of (adequate) remorse. I’m sure he is a complex person with good features to his character (as are most people), but I don’t see how any fair assessment of his character hinges on Rachel. No one can make you kill two of your own friends—especially the way he did–unless part of you was okay with doing it.

  12. aww…i too am not in the US (australia here!), so i haven’t met mike the bailiff but i like him already…

    i would like to say that i am opposed to the death penalty. no, scrap that – i am VEHEMENTLY opposed to the death penalty. and whenever i have to hear about it (also a crime junkie, so that is often) i get all churned up inside with anger, upset, confusion etc….it absolutely STUNS me that a country such as the USA, which supposedly not only prides itself as being the beacon of progressive western civilisation, but actively plays the lead every time in trying to impose its supposed ‘good’ values and way of life on other countries, has state-sanctioned murder.

    it…..is…..mindblowing….to say the least. despicable.

    having said that IF i were a juror on this trial and had to make the decision (erm, even if i were american i wouldn’t be – they would’ve struck me off in jury selection once i got on my high horse on the subject haha), but IF i were – this is the case where i would’ve recommended death. sorry, but it’s just this crime….wow – it really hits you in the heart. a war vet and a cali-dancer girl who was described by one and all as sweet as pie…for nothing. BOTH thinking they were going to help a friend, and BOTH leaving behind such loving, beautiful families…. it is sad beyond words.

    over here we think of california as one of the more progressive states – is this correct? i hope if you are voting on the issue in november then this is the case and your friend gets life behind bars. at least then he can put himself to work and tutor fellow inmates, leave some kind of positive imprint on the world…

  13. Ok, so I have been waiting to post this since a couple posts back but I wanted to get to the end of the sentencing posts. Before I write out my theory, I just wanted to say a couple things about me. I am a former drug addict, but I now have 16 months clean. Because of my addiction, I have spent a total of about 14 days in 3 separate county jails. I am also very against the death penalty. Finally, I think what Daniel Wozniak did is atrocious and he deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail.

    Having said all that, I have a theory. Daniel knew he would be found guilty. There was no technicality that would get him off for this crime. Perhaps, it has been Daniel’s plan all along to spend his for sure life sentence on Death Row? I did some research and in CA, since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated, there have been over 900 Californians sentenced to death (at least up until 2013.) During that time (1976-2013) only 13 have actually been executed. That is a very low percentage. In CA, the most likely outcome for someone who has been sentenced to death is for their sentence to be vacated, and then it reverts to LWOP sentence. Second most likely outcome is for them to just remain on Death Row til natural death. Third most likely outcome is for them to be executed. I have this theory because of my time spent in a county lock up. I come from an upper middle class family. I do not have a “thug mentality” or “street smarts.” For this reason, jail was very scary to me. There are tons of unwritten rules, and people who are institutionalized, can read others like a book. If they know you can’t or won’t defend yourself in a physical altercation (because that’s how you were raised), you will have problems. I’m thinking Daniel realized this very quickly in jail and knowing he had no defense for his crimes, just wanted to serve his sentence in the safest place possible. It is a very lonely existence, but Daniel will have access to a TV and books and items like that, and it is safer than Gen Pop. To me, this would explain why Sanders really didn’t put up much of a fight, and didn’t call any family members or friends to sway the jury. He has to seem like he is putting up the best defense possible so that it will hold up on appeal, but in the end, a defense attorney does what is best for his client. If Daniel wanted this, he may have went along with it.

    Anyways, it’s just a theory, and is probably wrong, but I thought I would throw it out there. I also wanted to remind you that it is unlikely your friend will ever see the needle and he will be safer on Death Row than in Gen Pop.

Leave a Reply

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