Penalty Phase Prosecution Witnesses: Day Two

Day two of the penalty phase in the trial of Daniel Wozniak started with a ruling about bringing up the criminal background of defense witness Daniel Munoz, who would vouch for Daniel’s character later that day. Judge Conley used what he called a “quick and dirty approach” to go through the rather long rap sheet of this witness, and told Matt Murphy to “make (him) an offer” about what priors he wanted to mention to the jury. Munoz met Daniel when they were both in jail.

While Matt Murphy discussed Munoz’s numerous “scary” tattoos, I couldn’t help feeling that this man might not impress the jury that much.  I think his crimes were all theft related… maybe some gang stuff… I’m not sure.  Either way, I’m not knocking Mr. Munoz as a person, but as a character witness. He probably wasn’t up there with church pastor, you know?

After this business was settled, the bailiffs brought Daniel Wozniak into the courtroom.  You always know when they are bringing him into the courtroom because you can hear the cell doors clanking open and slamming shut right before he enters. It’s like a sound cue.

In spite of being on trial for murder, Daniel has a natural bounce in his step even when chained and handcuffed.  That probably rubs some people the wrong way.

There was a short wait before the jury was brought back in. One of them was running late. In that person’s defense, it had been seriously pouring rain that morning and there was flooding and traffic jams everywhere.  Give us Californians an earthquake and we’re fine, but when water falls from the sky, it causes problems.

Once everyone was in their spots, it was time for the prosecution to continue with witness testimony.

Emi Kibuishi

The next person up was Emi Kibuishi, the youngest of the Kibuishi children.  She described her big sister, Julie, as a loving protector with a big personality.  She, and a cousin, looked up to Julie and the three of them were always together.  They loved to dance.

At one point, Murphy put up a picture of the girls from Halloween.  Emi was a bunny and Julie was Jasmine from Alladin.

Julie’s murder happened on the day of Emi’s senior prom. The next morning, Emi was scheduled to try out for the spirit squad at the University of California, Irvine.  The family decided to keep her sister’s death from her until after.

Emi thought it was strange When the entire family came to pick her up after the tryout. But when she saw that her mother was crying, she immediately realized that Julie wasn’t in the car, and she knew something terrible had happened.

There was no cross-examination. Another good decision for Scott.

June Kibuishi

Julie’s petite and soft-spoken mother, June Kibuishi, was the final prosecution witness.  When I was going over my notes from the trial, I noticed that I didn’t have that many for Julie’s mom.  I don’t think she was on the stand for that long, but I still felt like my notes might have been lacking.

There were a lot of times that I cried during this trial, and I suspect that was the reason my notes are choppy.

When June Kibuishi had been pregnant with Julie, she was told she was having another boy. But on Valentine’s Day in 1987, the Kibuishi family was thrilled to welcome their first girl.  On the stand, June described her daughter as a bubbly and athletic tomboy who balanced playing softball with her love of dancing.  Her voice cracked as she told the jury about little girl’s fondness for skirt spins and curtsies.

Julie was accepted into the Commercial Dance Conservatory at the prestigious Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) in the eighth grade.  June Kibuishi proudly explained that this was when the school had first started accepting junior high students.

OCSA held a memorial for Julie at the ten-year reunion of her high school graduation. A plaque in her honor was put up at the school with the words: Juri “Julie” Kibuishi. Always in our hearts. Next to the message is an inlaid image of a dancing young woman.

Various photographs were displayed on the video screen during June Kibuishi’s testimony. We saw a picture of the plaque, one of the Kibuishi extended family in front of a Christmas tree, and another Julie and June together.  The two of them looked so happy in that image; June’s head resting on Julie’s shoulder.

At the end of her testimony, a sobbing June Kibuishi held up the tiara her daughter Julie was wearing when she was murdered.

And again, there was no cross-examination.  Phew.

The jury was sent out for a break, and an agitated Scott Sanders had a point to make with the judge.

The Tiara

There had been no disclosure to the defense that the clearly inflammatory tiara would be brought into court. It hadn’t been previously introduced as a piece of physical evidence.

Matt Murphy insisted that he had no idea what June Kibuishi had planned to say on the stand that morning, and that up until then, he thought the tiara had been cremated.

Scott countered that there was no way he could address the tiara with June—or question any of these grieving witnesses—without (I can’t remember exactly how he phrased it, but this is what I wrote in my court notes, so I’m not quoting here) looking like a dick.

Next time: the very first defense witness of the entire trial.

One thought on “Penalty Phase Prosecution Witnesses: Day Two”

  1. Wow. I can’t believe that the defendant Dan Wozniak has been in county jail awaiting trial and sentencing for almost six years now. It’s funny how when you look up “Daniel Wozniak Arraignment” google photos, Scott Sanders looks like he’s 15 years younger than he looks now. His Wozniak and Dekraai cases have got to be taking a tool. You got to tip your hat to him.

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