Court Considerations

Daniel’s murder trial is scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks. There has been so much hullabaloo about accused prosecutorial misconduct and the changing of judges, it seemed like this case would never go in front of a jury. But the court date is happening… and soon.

I wonder about the emotions being felt by the Herr and Kibuishi families. I’m guessing they are pleased that everything is finally getting underway, but are they are a bit nervous as well? I would be.

The trial is expected to go on for weeks, and scheduling around the holidays will likely make it last longer. I would be very surprised if it finishes before the end of the year.

I’m planning to go when I can because I prefer to hear information first hand, as opposed to getting a summary from the media or Daniel himself.

Listening to the podcast Undisclosed has been very helpful in understanding the terminology. Truth be told though, every time I hear about “Brady evidence,” I can’t stop thinking Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Court Questions For Daniel

After I go to court, I often have odd questions for Daniel.

For example, how does he says his own last name? The judges and lawyers don’t seem to have made a unanimous decision about that one.  I wanted to know if it’s “woz as in oz” or “woz as in whoa?” He said it was the first one, but he isn’t bothered when someone says wOHzniak, especially Scott, because “he’s from Chicago.”

During the hearings, Daniel always wears the jail issued orange jumpsuit, or “oranges.” Also, he is in chains. I asked if it was awkward to be wearing the jumpsuit in a room filled with people in business attire. He said he’s used to it, and that when the actual trial starts, he will wear regular street clothes so the jury won’t get a preconceived idea about him. The jury also isn’t technically supposed to know he’s currently incarcerated, so his chains are removed before the jury is let in. We all see the irony here, right?

I found out he changes in the holding cell. The guards give him a bag with his clothes that were provided by his defense team. The orange jumpsuit is then put into the bag and returned to the guard. He told me he rolls up his clothes instead of folding so they won’t get wrinkled. I do the same thing when I pack my suitcase. I believe he has two “outfits” available.

Sometimes, if he’s lucky, he’ll be in the cell the prisoners call “the suite.” It is larger than a phone booth and has a stone bench to stretch out on during lunch. Occasionally he’ll have a towel he can roll up as a pillow. He also brings his own lunch from the the jail.

Will the jury really not be able to figure out he’s incarcerated when they never see Daniel outside of the courtroom? Will they wonder why he only has two changes of clothing, after weeks and weeks of trial?

Jury Selection

I am very curious to find out who will end up on this jury. It must be difficult to even find people who are available for such an extended amount of time. Are there employers who give jury duty pay for more than a week or two?

There were over 400 potential jurors questioned last week. I think it’s interesting that so many people were eliminated because they’d seen Daniel perform on stage. Hmmm? How many shows was he in? I’m not saying this was the case here, but that is a pretty clever way of getting out of jury duty.

Do the lawyers think if a person really enjoyed that night at the theatre, it would sway their opinions about Daniel? “The guy who starred in that popular commercial musical was so entertaining that I could never find him guilty of murder.”

Or if it was a bad production, “I couldn’t get my money back, but seeing him fry should make up for those two hours I lost sitting in the audience.” (Shakes fist angrily.)

Of course there were also plenty of jurors who were released because they had just seen too much information about the case in the media. How difficult will it be to find twelve people in Orange County who don’t know anything about the Daniel Wozniak case? It has been closely linked with the extremely high profile case of Scott Dekraii. I don’t know anyone in the OC who isn’t aware of the Seal Beach massacre.

I was on a jury once. It was a civil suit. The other jurors voted me in as their chairperson. We didn’t give the plaintive any money. We were tough, but we were fair. I think we were a pretty reasonable group of people.

Reasonable and fair seem like good qualities to have in a jury. Will it be a tall order to find people like that among those who don’t follow the news or local musical theatre, and have the time available to be on a lengthy trial? And will they be a jury of Daniel Wozniak’s “peers?”

Jail Visit (Part One)

imageNovember 21, 2014: My first visit to the Orange County Jail.  I was totally freaked-out nervous for a bunch of reasons.

  1. Holy crap!  This guy is accused of murdering two people.
  2. It’s jail.  I feel judged even just visiting the place.
  3. Overwhelming worry that I’d mess something up and they wouldn’t let me visit.  Silly as it sounds, I don’t like to let people down.  I would’ve felt terrible if Daniel didn’t get a visit just because I couldn’t follow directions.
  4. Self-inflicted high anxiety.  I stress out because that’s what I do.  You know, maybe there would suddenly be some glitch in the Matrix and Daniel and I would switch bodies and I’d watch him walk away to freedom while I was put back in his cage.
  5. AND… holy crap…. this guy is accused of murdering two people!

Before the big day, Daniel provided me with a basic run-down of the visiting procedure:

  • Visits are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8 am – 5 pm.   You need to arrive fifteen minutes before the hour.  This is not nearly enough time for my comfort level. I like to be there a least thirty minutes early.
  • You need the booking number of the inmate you’re visiting.  I had that already because it’s same number I use when I send him snail mail.
  • Bring a picture ID (which you must have on your person at all times)
  • Quarters! You really only need one quarter.  It’s so you can put your stuff in a locker while you’re visiting.  I always need at least two quarters, since there’s never been a time when I didn’t forget that my phone is in my pocket, or that I accidentally put my driver’s license back in my purse, so I have to open my locker and use  another quarter to lock it again.

Knowing the whens and hows still didn’t help me know what to expect.

This wasn’t actually the first time I’d ever visited someone in jail.  I’ve had friends or family members who had done time for petty theft or drug use.  There have even been a couple of drunk-and-disorderlies thrown in there.

You visit those people at “Honor Farms” like on Orange is the New Black.  You sit at cafeteria-style tables and you can hug your loved one (once upon arrival and once leaving

The Protective Custody unit at the Orange County Jail is a completely different world.

Daniel is in the Intake / Release Center. This is where inmates are housed while awaiting trial.  Most people are not there for five years.

There’s something you can’t quite put your finger on: a feeling that you lose some of your “regular person on the street” status in the eyes of the O.C. deputy sheriffs. As soon as you walk in the door, you become someone to be watched, scrutinized, and recorded.

You go through the glass doors and join a check-in line.  They do not appreciate it when you excitedly approach the next window before they call you up (I was just trying to keep things moving along… jeeze!).

You talk through a speaker.  You can only see the deputy if you push your face against the glass (they don’t like that, either).

I give Daniel’s name and booking number to the female deputy and she seems immediately distrustful.

Daniel’s circumstances do make him a high visibility inmate, so that’s not total paranoia on my part.

“Your ID.”

I open the little door on the secure passageway between us.  When my door opens, her corresponding door seals shut, and vice versa.

“If you’re his friend, then where have you been for the past five years?”

“Ummm… We’re reconnecting… you know… from our old theatre days.”

“Do his parents know you’re coming today?”

“Yes they do.  He told them in advance.”

“Hmmm… ok.”  She puts my ID back in the compartment.

I try to open my side too soon.  It’s still sealed because her door isn’t completely closed.

I still make that mistake, even though I’ve visited a bunch of times by now.

Maybe, inside that room, there is access to some giant “release all prisoners” button, and they want to make sure that no “El Chappo types” send in their henchmen to try a breakout.

“Wait over there until the two o’clock visit is called.”

I sit on one of the teal molded-plastic chairs in the waiting area.  The place isn’t very crowded.  I’ve come to discover that Saturdays and Sundays are busier.

I try to not be obvious with my people watching.

I’m sure people are watching me.  Purple hair (at the time).  Black clothes.  Tattoos.  Giant nervous smile plastered on my face.  I try to keep my legs from bouncing too much.

Next up on DWIMF – The first time I was face to face (well… face to glass to face) with Daniel since before his arrest.

It would be great if anyone would like to share their own jail visit stories.   I’d love to read your comments.

Is He Guilty?

Whenever I write about Daniel Wozniak, I make sure to use terms such as alleged or accused or suspected as I talk about him being a possible murderer.

I believe in all the “a person is innocent until proven guilty” business we talk about in the United States.

We can’t forget that Daniel hasn’t been tried yet.

I feel kind of bad for Daniel when he’s referred to as a “brutal killer” in the headlines, but he tells me he’s used to it.

He actually did plead “not guilty” at his arraignment.  He is in jail awaiting trial, not serving a sentence.  Technically, he could have been awarded bail. There are other people who are facing charges for this same crime, and they are out on bail.

Why didn’t Daniel Wozniak get bail?  Well, because he confessed.

Yes, I know.  That doesn’t look good for my friend.

Does The Confession Guarantee He’s Guilty?

Here is the thing about confessions: they can’t always be trusted. Sometimes, they are coerced.

Let’s play devil’s advocate (no pun intended) here for a minute.

Perhaps there are some reasons why Daniel’s confession could be taken with a grain of salt:

  1. No lawyer present!
  2. The police threaten the woman he loves with a long prison term if someone else doesn’t take the blame.
  3. He wants to protect members of his family.
  4. No lawyer present!
  5. It takes five different versions of said “confession” before the police think it’s plausible enough to go along with whatever evidence they have.
  6. He is very drunk when he is questioned by the police because he was arrested at the end of his bachelor party.
  7. He is young and naive (only 26 at the time) and believes in the system.
  8. He is young and cocky and believes he is smarter than everyone else (Sorry Daniel, I have to call it like I see it).
  9. Oh and did I mention; NO LAWYER PRESENT!

I’m not willing to completely accept the word of the police, or to call my friend a murderer, unless he confesses to me himself.

Which he hasn’t.  In fact, he’s hinted that the real story is quite different from the one the authorities are telling.

Do I think he is innocent?

Hmmm… No, he’s probably not completely innocent of this crime.

Do I believe that he managed to…

  • Lure a 26 year old combat veteran to a public theatre on a joint forces training base in Los Alamitos, California on Saturday afternoon.
  • Murder the man by shooting him twice, then leave his body hidden in the building.
  • Perform that night as the lead in a sold-out musical with his supposedly unsuspecting fiancé.
  • Return home with his fiancé after the show.
  • Use the murdered man’s cell phone to impersonate him in a series of texts to a young woman who is friends with the man.
  • Convince her to come to the murdered man’s apartment that night (which is in the same complex where Daniel lives with his fiancé).
  • Sneak out of his own apartment, unbeknownst to his fiancée, and go to the murdered man’s apartment to meet that young woman.
  • Shoot her twice in the head.
  • Stage her body to look as though she had actually been raped and murdered by the man who lives in that apartment.  The man who is actually dead in a theatre about twenty miles away.
  • Sneak back into his own apartment and have a good night’s sleep with his fiancé curled up next to him (with no sign that anything out of the ordinary had taken place).
  • Wake up on Sunday, acquire some sharp cutting tools (I’ve read a couple differing statements about exactly what tools and where they were acquired), manage to ditch the fiancé again, and go back to the to the training base.
  • Get the tools into the theatre building in order to decapitate the murdered man and cut off his arm and hand.
  • Sneak presumably blood covered tools and body parts out of the building in the middle of the day.
  • Dispose of the body parts in various areas of a nearby popular nature reserve on a Sunday afternoon.
  • At some point, return home to extremely patient fiancé.
  • On Sunday night, perform as the lead in a sold-out musical with his fiancé.

I’m not quite sure if Daniel is alleged to have disposed of the body parts in the afternoon or at a later time.  However, if he still had them when he returned home, then he managed to hide them from his fiancé Rachel until he was able to get rid of them.

“Just ignore those body parts in the trunk of the car, honey.”

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m in no way belittling what happened to these victims and their families.  The part of this crime that can’t be debated is that Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi are dead.

Do I Think He’s Guilty?

I’m just not positive that my friend, Daniel Wozniak, is the person who killed them.

I’m not positive he didn’t either.

But doesn’t this all seem a little implausible…?

Let me know what you think—leave a comment!

My First Mail From Jail

February 2015

(Post Four)

When I got a letter back (dated August 31, 2014), I was giddy with excitement.  Just seeing the red “Inmate Correspondence” stamp on the front of the envelope got me all a-twitter.

The second thing I noticed was the incredibly neat printing on the address.  In pencil.

Inside was a three page letter on two sheets of yellow legal-sized paper (the first page with both sides filled) written completely in pencil in that super-neat printing.

Pat’s First Letter From Jail To Me

He began by apologizing to me.

I didn’t expect that.  I didn’t think he owed me an apology, but I think he has a lot of general guilt about any trouble he caused to anyone when he was arrested.

The truth is: that poor little theatre was on its last legs financially and I’m pretty sure that the publicity from his story did not hurt us at all (“if it bleeds it leads”).

Nonetheless, I thought it was a nice gesture on his part, assuming it was genuine and not just “the right thing to say.”

He thanked me for writing to him and, logically, asked me why I did.

He talked about how much he had loved acting in plays and how it was easier pretending to be someone else rather than being himself.  This was right after Robin Williams had killed himself, and Pat mentioned that he’d always been a big fan.

He talked about depression and suicide attempts (both considered and actualized: Pat tried to kill himself soon after his arrest and ended up in a coma).

He wrote about his fiancé.   Now, she was his ex-fiancé.

She had been his only friend and his life had revolved around her.  He was devastated when, after he’d been in jail for three months, she cut off all communication with him.

Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly surprised that she’d “dumped” him, considering the situation.

It wasn’t just that he was being charged with murdering two people. She actually ended up getting arrested herself as an accessory after the fact. She’s out on bail and is also “awaiting trial.”

Did I mention that she was on Dr. Phil?

Pat talked about life and freedom and lack of freedom, and making a difference, and doing what you can to make things better no matter your circumstances. He’d just helped his “celly” pass the GED.

He talked about God.  He asked me to not characterize him by the crimes that put him there, but by the man he is today.  He hopes I can see that he is not an evil man.

He went on to tell me that he’d been using a lot of drugs at that time in his life  (when he was doing the play at my theatre and getting arrested for double murder).  He abashedly admitted it was a very “foggy” time for him, and that he wasn’t sure if he remembered me, but a picture would help refresh his memory…

I immediately went looking for pictures of me where I look cute.

Duh..!

Why Did I Write an Accused Murder?

February 2015

 
(Post Three)

So. Why did I write Pat in the first place?

And why did I wait 4 years to do it?

My family members have asked these questions.  My friends have asked these questions.  The guards at the jail where I visit Pat have asked these questions.

Why I Wrote An Alleged Double Murderer

The first reason:  This!  What I am doing right now: writing.

I won’t deny it: this guy is FASCINATING!

I wanted to know more.  I wanted to understand.  It’s obvious that there is one hell of a story here, and I wanted to write about Pat. What I’d write was still beyond me, but I wanted to write.

I decided the best way to get this going was to write him a letter.

I didn’t know how to send a letter to someone in jail, but I figured there was some type of protocol.

It took a little searching, but I found out Pat’s birthday (he’s about to turn 31), his full name, his arrest date and his booking number.  The booking number is most important.  You need to put it on the mail you send, and you need to give it to the guards when you visit.
During this Internet searching, I discovered Pat’s trial still hadn’t happened!  I occasionally wondered why I never heard any news or gossip about him. I had no idea he’d been sitting in jail… waiting… all this time.

Right now, he’s in a sort of holding location where most of his fellow inmates will be in and out in a couple of months.  They will either finish their trials and be moved to a prison to serve out their stay, or they are only in jail for a couple of months for some relatively innocuous crime (drug possession or something like that).

Yes, this means I can actually go to Pat’s trial!

This brings us to my second reason for starting this relationship.

I love crime shows!

I don’t mean CSI type dramas.  I’m an ID Addict.

Investigation Discovery is a cable channel that shows non-stop true crime shows like Dateline.

I’m a huge fan of Dateline.  I also love Homicide Hunter, Murder Next Door, A Crime to Remember, True Crime with Aphrodite Jones, Most Evil, 20/20 (when it’s a crime episode and not some boring “my neighbor from Hell” story), Murder Book, On the Case with Paula Zahn… etc. etc.   If a show has the words “Evil,” “Murder” or  “Homicide” in the title, it’s on my TiVo list.

The contents of my bookshelf include The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, Welcome to Hell: Writings and Letters from Death Row, Helter Skelter, Last Meals (yup, just lists of final meals of inmates before being executed) and many worn out paperbacks about Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, David Berkowitz (Son of Sam), Zodiac, BTK, Jeffrey Dahmer… well, you get the picture.

So, I have this (possibly unhealthy) obsession with crimes and killers, and BAM: here is a possible killer who I’ve actually met!!

I’m super fascinated with what makes a person confess to a crime they didn’t commit. I’m in no way saying that this is the case with Pat, but let’s keep an open mind here, people.  If any of you are familiar with the case of The West Memphis Three, then you know sometimes people really do confess to doing some pretty horrific stuff, even when they didn’t do it.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, I wrote a letter to Pat.

Keep in mind that we had only met briefly before his arrest; I wasn’t exactly writing to an old friend.   I was nervous about it, too.  I had no idea if he would remember me or write me back, and if he didn’t write me back… how in the world would I ever be able to write about him?

Also, what do you say to someone who is in jail and being accused of some seriously heinous stuff (double murder and dismemberment of one of the victims)?

Well, I talked about how crappy the dressing rooms had been at our theatre.  I also mentioned that he’d been a huge topic of conversation around the place after he was arrested.  I asked some questions about the truthfulness of Orange is the New Black (LOVE that show and wouldn’t care if it was all lies… but it’s not).

It wasn’t a long letter. Only 3 paragraphs.

He replied to me right away!

My New Friend is in Jail

January 2015

(Post One)

I have a new friend.

Actually I met him for the first time in 2010, but he really only became my actual friend until a few months ago when I first wrote him a letter.

He is in jail.

He’s “awaiting trial.”  He’s been waiting a long time, too – 4 years and 7 months so far.  That is a longer-than-usual time to wait for your trial.  It’s especially a long time if you sit inside a cell 22 hours day.   My friend is being charged with “special circumstances,” so he can’t get bail, and the prosecutor is asking for the death penalty.

Let’s start by saying that I am NOT going to use my friend’s name in this blog; at least not at this point.

Obviously, anyone could Google what I’m going to tell you about the case.  You could find out my friend’s name and all about his alleged crime.  I’m not trying to hide anything, but I watch a lot of TV, and I figure if I don’t say his name, then nothing I write can be used against him in a court of law.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

I’m going to call him Pat.  My friend Pat, who is in jail.

When I first met Pat back in 2010, he was acting in a play at my theatre.  I’m calling it my theatre because I was one of the people who helped with the day-to-day running of the place.  I was a company member and a director.

Pat was just around for one show.  Even though he was the lead actor in a musical running at the theatre, it was Pat’s first time acting there.

The show was doing well and it was making money. That was all that mattered to me.

So, even though Pat was just a visitor, I liked him.  I didn’t think he was the greatest actor in the world, but he was doing a good job in the show and audiences responded well to him.

I started eyeing him for my summer musical.  He seemed like a nice guy.  He was good-looking and personable.  He was funny and polite.  He was even engaged to one of the actresses in the show,  and they were getting married the next week!  He seemed like he had his life pretty organized (at least organized enough for an actor in community theatre).

I chatted up Pat when I was house managing for his show one night.

This theatre was really small.  There were a lot of people in Pat’s show, and he ended up having to use the theatre’s office for his dressing room (he was the only man in the show).    I was selling tickets and snacks from the front of the office, while Pat was hanging out “back stage” in the back of the office.

A makeshift curtain hid him from the audience. He made me laugh, because every time someone would order a soda, Pat would hand it to me through the curtain.

A few days after the show ended, Pat was arrested.

He was at a restaurant having an impromptu bachelor party with some of his buddies.  The Sheriffs swarmed in and arrested him just as he’d finished paying the check (a fact that annoys him a bit).