It was January 7, 2016 and Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy was soon to begin his closing argument in the penalty phase of Daniel’s trial. Judge Conley’s courtroom was packed. The victims’ family members filled many of the seats. There were also quite a few young lawyer types in suits probably there to observe the battle royal about to take place between Murphy and Daniel’s defense lawyer, Scott Sanders.
One / One / One
The action started even before the jury was brought into the courtroom, when Matt Murphy contested a previous ruling in the case.
Normally, the prosecution gets to have the final word with the jury. The prosecution speaks first and last… a defense attorney sandwich, you might say. This “one/one/one” order is a way for the prosecution to rebut any statements made by the defense.
However, in an earlier hearing, Judge Conley ruled that in the penalty phase of Daniel’s trial, there would be a “one/one” order for the closing arguments, which meant that Scott Sanders would get to have the last words to the jury. It wasn’t exactly clear why Judge Conley had made that decision. It almost seemed like he’d done it in error and Sanders wasn’t going to let him just switch it back without a clear legal reason.
Matt Murphy was not happy about this, and he fought more than once to have the decision reversed. Scott Sanders was not backing down, though, and in the end he “one/one/won” the right to talk last.
This meant Matt Murphy would have to guess what Scott Sanders was going to say in his closing, and he wanted to counter any and all possible arguments Scott Sanders might bring up to defend Daniel’s life.
Murphy started his closing with the goal of making a personal connection with the jury. He said he felt he knew each of them from reading their questionnaires, and they would know in their own hearts what they should do. But, a moment later, he called upon the jury members to “put (their) feelings aside” and recommend death for Daniel.
Which is it? Use their hearts or put their feelings aside? These seem like mixed messages.
Matt Murphy was going to say whatever it took to convince the jury that my friend Daniel Wozniak is irredeemable and deserves to die. Murphy suggested that there could be some situations where society might understand why a person committed murder. The example Matt Murphy used was a revenge killing of a child molester. That’s the kind of situation where “well, maybe we would kill that guy.”(The child molester.)
But Daniel’s motivation, according to the prosecution, was money. If Scott Sanders was planning to suggest anything else, Murphy wanted to knock out that idea before it could even be brought up.
Knocking Down The Defense Witnesses
Continuing with his closing, Murphy began to demean some defense witnesses. He claimed Krystin Bergamasco’s testimony was insignificant, and what she had to say reminded him of when “he watched Glee” because of how much it sounded like high school drama. Kyle Ruebel‘s testimony wasn’t to be taken seriously, either. Murphy acquiesced that Kyle is a nice guy, but he didn’t understand how he “got all the ladies.”
Dealing With Rachel Buffett
Next up, Murphy dealt with the Rachel card. He knew Scott Sanders would talk about Rachel during his closing, but what would he say? Murphy started listing possible topics Sanders might use in an attempt to throw some blame Rachel’s way:
- The defense needs a villain to blame.
- People don’t like Rachel.
- Rachel was living with Daniel.
- Rachel would also benefit from any financial gain.
- Rachel was near Daniel while the texting to Julie was happening.
- Rachel cried on-stage for the first time on the night Sam was murdered.
- Rachel lied to the police about seeing a third man with Daniel and Sam on the day Sam was murdered.
- She didn’t tell the police about Chris Williams.
- She “echoed” Daniel’s lies about Sam having family problems.
- Everett said that Rachel should also be on trial for murder.
Murphy didn’t argue against any of the Rachel accusations. In fact, he admitted that he “would love to bring (Rachel) to trial for murder,” but he didn’t have the evidence to do it. Murphy told the jury that he believes Daniel lied over and over when he said Rachel wasn’t involved, but Daniel wouldn’t “sell her down the river.” So, Matt Murphy decided to make it simple for the jury: “If you think she may have done it, just assume she did, but that doesn’t negate what Daniel did.”
That is a valid point. But it makes me wonder. How can the prosecution sell the jury on Daniel’s confession when they don’t believe it?
Murphy then proceeded to insult defense witness Daniel Munoz, calling Munoz an “idiot” and a liar, and claiming he was surprised “that guy didn’t get arrested on his way out of the court.”
I don’t believe it was necessary to be that rude. I think Murphy could have discredited Munoz’s testimony without it being such a personal attack on the guy.
A Reminder Of Motive
Then Murphy’s closing jumped back to the aggravating circumstances that make this a death penalty case: financial gain and multiple murders. He referred to this not being the olden days of Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol, and how it was disgusting to have wanted money for a “silly wedding.” He wondered why Daniel’s computer didn’t contain Google searches on ways to make money such as selling a kidney or becoming a male prostitute.
Uh…? Charles Dickens? Male prostitute? What?
Obviously, he was trying to make the point that stealing money to pay for a wedding is a sickening motive for murder, but his analogies were a bit peculiar to say the least.
Also, if Scott Sanders was planning to suggest that Daniel might have a more emotion-based reason for committing murder, Murphy was going to cross that bridge before Scott could come to it. The prosecution wasn’t going to get a rebuttal and had to make sure Daniel was painted as evil, not insane or intoxicated. After all, Daniel hadn’t done any Google searches about “hearing voices,” and no drug evidence was found.
I wasn’t sure if that meant there was no drug evidence found in any of the locations related to the case, or just in Daniel and Rachel’s apartment. Either way, it surprised me. Early on in our correspondence, I got the impression that Daniel had been abusing drugs at the time of the murders. I don’t think that I misinterpreted this, but I did expect there to be signs of drug use in Daniel’s apartment. That is something I’ll want to ask him about. Hmmm…
I’ll finish with the prosecution’s closing argument in my next post. We’ll start with why Scott Sanders called a sidebar in the midst of it..!