When I learned Detective Jose Morales would be the last witness called by Daniel’s defense team, I was particularly curious to find out how one of the lead detectives against Daniel was now supposedly going to help him.
I knew we weren’t going to get some kind of bombshell moment. Things like that happen during the guilt phase of a trial, and I didn’t expect Det. Morales to say anything that would call Daniel’s guilt into question. At this point, Scott Sanders was just trying to save Daniel Wozniak’s life.
During the guilt phase of the trial, Lead Detective Lt. Ed Everett made it abundantly clear he believes Daniel’s former fiancée, Rachel Buffett, should be facing the same murder charges as Daniel.
However, during Det. Morales’ time on the stand, Scott Sander’s didn’t ask any questions about Rachel during his cross-examination.
Still, I was anticipating a, “hey look over there at Rachel Buffett” approach now that we were in the penalty phase.
I was right. First thing out of the gate was a question about Rachel’s own police interview. Det. Morales was asked if he’d been part of Rachel’s questioning. He had.
Rachel, Rachel, Rachel…
In fact, Detective Morales interviewed Rachel many times between 2010 – 2012. I got the impression that he doesn’t have the same access to Rachel now. Maybe a lawyer put the kibosh on her talking to the police?
…On When She Found Out About Julie
During questioning, Rachel had been repeatedly asked when she had found out about Julie’s murder. She always claimed to have learned about Julie death when everyone else did: after Steve Herr found her body in Sam’s apartment on May 22.
But Detective Morales confronted Rachel with the fact that there had been people at the theatre who’d heard Rachel speak about Julie’s murder earlier on that weekend.
…On What She Knew About Daniel’s Money Problems
During his testimony, Det. Morales revealed that Rachel lied to the police about her knowledge of Daniel’s money issues. She’d claimed not to know who’d loaned Daniel money. She thought he’d borrowed from a loan shark and that Daniel was afraid of “having his legs broken” if he didn’t pay it back.
Scott Sanders led Det. Morales to tell the jury that he’d confronted Rachel. He knew it was Chris Williams who loaned money to Daniel, and he knew she knew. Why did Rachel not tell the police about Chris Williams loaning money to Daniel? Early in the investigation, Rachel stuck to the story that some “bad people” were involved in loaning Daniel money and Rachel was afraid of them.
In a 2012 interview, Rachel told the police that she’d kept Chris Williams’ identity a secret in order to protect his name. But during Williams own testimony, he told the jury that Rachel knew there were no loan sharks. So why had Rachel lied to the police about having a fear of them?
Scott Sanders questioned Det. Morales about Chris Williams’ cell phone movements on the day of Sam’s murder. Williams left Rachel and Daniel’s apartment soon after Daniel, having just murdered Sam, arrived home that day. The jury was reminded that Rachel called Chris Williams not long after he left the apartment, and she was very upset, but didn’t say why.
…On Internet Use
Next, Det. Morales was questioned about the timing of internet activity at Daniel and Rachel’s apartment that day. I think the purpose of this was to show that Rachel was online when Daniel wasn’t home.
Scott Sanders didn’t link this to any of the incriminating searches that were used as evidence during the guilt phase. So why is it important that she was on the computer when Daniel wasn’t home? Oh, and by the way, the reason the police know Daniel wasn’t home: because that was when Sam was being murdered.
More Red Flags
Detective Morales had other suspicions about Rachel:
- Rachel originally said she didn’t know what time she went to bed on the night of Julie’s murder. But later, she gave an exact time.
- Rachel signed on to Daniel’s Facebook account during the weekend of the murders. He didn’t seem to believe her when she said this was common for her to do.
- Rachel claimed she didn’t notice Daniel using a flip phone to send texts to Julie on the night she was murdered, even though Daniel owned a smart phone.
- Some of those texts were “eerily similar” to statements Rachel made to the police during interviews.
Why All The Attention On Rachel Buffett?
So what was the point of all this, and did we learn anything new? At one point it was mentioned Daniel had made three calls to Rachel from jail (only one was played for the jury). I don’t think I knew that before, but I don’t know if it’s important, either.
I think Scott Sanders was trying to remind the jury that the police have doubts about Rachel. What did she know and when did she know it? Did she help cover up Sam’s murder? Was she directly involved in Julie’s murder?
And was any of it going to make a difference in determining Daniel’s fate?
When it was Matt Murphy’s turn to cross-examine Detective Morales, it felt like Murphy was giving Morales the opportunity to finish his sentences… as though Scott Sanders had been cutting him off.
I liked that little twist where a prosecution witness was now being cross-examined by the prosecutor – even if it did feel like they were still on the same side.
Murphy wanted to clear up any question the jury might have about the charges against Rachel Buffett. She is accused of lying to the police and being a murder accessory after the fact. Murphy asked Morales if he had anything to indicate that Rachel was involved with the planning of either murder. The answer was no.
Det. Morales was questioned about some of Daniel and Rachel’s computer searches. But they weren’t incriminating, so I’m not sure of the point of bringing them up. They were all seemingly related to wedding and honeymoon planning: party rentals, cruise ship information, and Sandals Resort in Mexico. The searches were all done on Daniel’s laptop, not on the shared desktop.
That sounds like Daniel was doing a lot of the planning, but on Dateline, Rachel said he wasn’t interested or involved with the wedding plans. I think either she or Josh Mankiewicz referred to him as a “typical guy.”
Detective Morales admitted that he doesn’t buy Daniel’s confession story, but pointed out that Daniel has always maintained that Rachel had nothing to do with the murders of Sam and Julie.
Det. Morales personally believes that Daniel told Rachel about the murder of Sam and the two of them planned to cover up Sam’s murder by killing Julie. His theory is that Rachel had knowledge but she did not participate.
Matt Murphy was quick to point out that no matter what Det. Morales believed, there’s no proof that Rachel did anything but “echo Daniel’s lies.”
That was the end of it. There would be no more witnesses and the jury was told to report the following Tuesday at 9 AM to hear the closing arguments.
In the next post: the beginning of Matt Murphy’s closing arguments. Matt and Scott Sanders each spoke for about six hours. I have lots of notes.