Penalty Phase: The Prosecution’s Closing Argument

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..!

11 thoughts on “Penalty Phase: The Prosecution’s Closing Argument”

  1. I feel like you are moving so painfully slow now… You started off so strong and entertaining now we never hear about ur visits with Dan at all and the way you have separated out this trial crap way too over obsessively to the point that its boring to read now. I want to know how he is feeling going through this and facing what he did publicly how does that make him feel or has he already forgotten…

    1. Debbie, my sincere apologies for boring you. However, I’m so glad that you’ve still been reading the posts and taking time out of your busy life to comment. Well, you might be interested to know that Daniel thinks that YOU are actually Rachel. After reading all the comments left on the blog, Daniel gave me some interesting thoughts and responses. And he’s convinced that you are actually Rachel. So, is he right?

  2. Sorry to disappoint….he is wrong. I’ve simply put fourth my opinion based on all the facts of this case its painfully clear that Rachel is innocent it makes me sick to see her life be ruined forever because of his selfishness and evilness. Her and her family never deserved this pain. And the same even more for the victims and their families. Glad to have been a laugh to you and ur friend while they miss and long to see their loved ones again but cant….

    1. My goodness, DD – You need not worry. I do not find you funny at all. By the way, I believe you meant to say “she and her family” never deserved this pain. I agree with you completely. None of the families deserved the pain.

      1. lol thank you spell checker. I have never tried to be funny regarding this awful nightmare… but I can certainly see dans stupid smug grin laughing… amongst the other things you and him giggle about while you fondly gaze at him and pretend he is like everyone else and not a psychotic monster “its ok dan, you may have killed two young people but ur actions don’t define who you are” haha YA RIGHT… charity case of the year lady.

  3. Is Daniel still messing around with guys in jail? He was always trying to get other guys into our bedroom

    1. The email used for this comment was not the one normally used by “Debbie Do.” Actually, it was Rachel’s email. This does not prove that Rachel actually wrote the comment. Someone could have just used Rachel’s email.

      By the way, DD – I was never convinced that you are Rachel. I just think you’re related. I really appreciate that you read the blog and take time to comment.

  4. Is there a way you could email the search engine from which the other Debbie do posted from?? I know rachels email and would like to know if its been hacked thank you

  5. Sorry if this gets long winded but i’ll keep it as short as possible: I don’t hate you for being friends with the guy but… perhaps you don’t have children if you cannot understand how horrific this situation comes across to someone who considers that could’ve been their father, son, daughter, sister, mother etc who he sawed into, cackled about (according to the news story..didn’t he say it was almost a game?), hid the body parts of, lured his next victim, blew her brains out (yes i’m being graphic on purpose to impress the situation), then went to a party and was totally cool about all of it.. and you wanna say he isn’t a mental monster? You’re right.. he’s not a monster.. he’s a beast. An animal mentally. Because that’s how animals act.. the don’t have conscience… they kill for food, or some other base need, and they don’t give a damn about the family left.. matter of fact they’ll come back for their second meal if the family hangs around for too long… That being said…

    Perhaps he is capable of reformation… but I will tell you this much… I wouldn’t want him living next door to me, my daughter, OR my sons…EVER… and can you honestly say… considering this whole thing stemmed from his love/need/want for money.. that if you had say… 65 grand or so sitting in a bank (probably wouldn’t even take that much) and he told you he was broke and heard you had that money… would you sleep with both eyes shut or one open at all times… lets be real.. this guy isn’t your friend.. not anymore because he showed something to you when he killed those people.. that whether it was a friend or a basic stranger.. he can and WILL kill to get what he wants.. he has no respect of persons… and lets not even go into how he tried to FRAME a dead guy! That stupid note he had the nerve to write on Julie… to frame a war vet…. shame….shame.. shame… I don’t actually advocate the death penalty but in this situation I would feel EXACTLY how the parents of those victims feel and those jurors… and I absolutely empathize with them…the thought of someone doing what he did to those I love… I could go on and on… but I think I’ve said my peace as respectfully as I could for your blog. He ruined his own life and the lives of not one but two other whole families, for a few stupid dollars… lost everything.. and it’s all his own STUPID, sick fault… I don’t feel sorry for him.. but the situation is CERTAINLY sad. Again all that said.. on a humane level there is a bit of sadness for him because he could’ve been something so much better than he was… and he chose to throw himself to the fire and drag two kind human beings, at least one of which, he called “Friend” (you still think you’re his friend do you…) right into the fire with him. Only they are buried and dead in the ground now while he walks around still conscious and alive.

  6. Fact # 1: Rachel gave Sam’s PIN to Dan.
    Fact # 2: Rachel performed on Sam for money. (Hence the comment regarding Dan, etc., and her searching for topless waitress jobs (“Fritz’s That’s It!”)).
    Fact # 3: Rachel shot Julie.

    After firing a gun, jumping in jacuzzis and taking showers helps remove the GSR.

    Nathan, Noah, Hannah, and Abraham know it and cleaned up their physical appearance in anticipation of Rachel’s trial over two weeks ago. Medina has delayed the trial with the hopes of Murphy et al. dismissing. Medina is relying on decreasing memory due to time.

    Lastly, look at Marianne’s (Rachel’s mother) facial expression when Rachel was released from jail. The look towards Noah says it all.

    Regarding Noah, he has attempted reconciling his sister’s crime(s) by opening Bunker Bar which focused on U.S. military veterans. He is now head of maintenance for a tourist operation in Catalina.

    Sure Hope Alls Good

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