Side Post – A Court Update

Daniel was in court again on Monday June 13. This time, I was able to go.

You might be thinking, “Hey, I thought the jury already gave him a death penalty verdict. Why isn’t he languishing away in San Quentin by now?” There’s a big difference between a jury’s recommendation and actually being sentenced.  Until Judge Conley makes his final decision, Daniel will remain in the Orange County Jail.

If you’re wondering what’s holding up the decision, I’d say it’s the tenacity of Daniel’s defense attorney, Scott Sanders.

The Inmate Informants Controversy

Throughout this entire process, Scott Sanders has claimed the Orange County Sheriffs and the Orange County District Attorney’s office hid evidence from the defense, and this evidence was a result of an illegal use of inmate informants at the OC Jail.

From the beginning, all the accusations were denied. But when Sanders dug up proof of an informant network, Matt Murphy claimed that it was a moot point anyway because he wasn’t going to use the information during Daniel’s trial. There was nothing relevant learned about Daniel’s case.

I’m pretty sure Scott Sanders would respond with a “Let me be the judge of that.” Especially since he ended up finding proof of what he’s been claiming all along.

But Sanders isn’t the judge, so he needs to convince Judge Conley that the defense has the legal right to see ALL the information that was collected on his client. Matt Murphy does not agree, and so, even though his trial ended over four months ago, Daniel still hasn’t been sentenced.

Now, before you get all pissy at Scott Sanders and blame him solely for the seemingly endless delays in Daniel’s sentencing, you should know that Sanders has repeatedly stated the defense is not trying to free Daniel or contest the guilty verdict. Sanders does want the death penalty removed, and he wants to make sure Daniel got a completely fair and legal trial.

That is his job, after all.

Obviously Matt Murphy has a job to do as well, and it’s a damn important one: get justice for the victims. With Daniel’s sentencing repeatedly delayed, it’s no surprise the victims’ family members are frustrated and angry.

In recent weeks, though, new revelations pointing to information being hidden has surfaced. Sanders has learned of the existence of over 1,000 pages of records kept by OC Sheriff’s deputies who were in a “special handling” unit in charge of those previously non-existent jailhouse informants.

Matt Murphy and the DA’s Office have stated that they were unaware of this “blog” kept by the Sheriffs. Murphy still stands behind his assertion that none of it is relevant in Daniel’s case.

But if Scott Sanders is a tad doubtful, and he wants to look at this “blog” for himself, then he should get to look at it… and he shouldn’t be blamed for the time taken to do so.

How Does The Informants Controversy Matter In The Wozniak Case?

You know what? There probably isn’t a damn thing in those notes that will change the outcome of Daniel’s sentence. That’s not the point.

Murphy is asking for the death penalty, so doesn’t it make sense to at least confirm that Daniel’s rights weren’t violated? For those of you who want him dead, think about it this way: do you want Daniel coming back on appeal?

While I was sitting in the courtroom Monday, listening to the back and forth between Murphy and Sanders, a ridiculous analogy popped into my head.

A couple is having an argument because the woman thinks the man is cheating on her. By the way, for the purpose of this example, I’m using a male / female couple to simplify my pronoun use.

Anyway, he profusely denies cheating, but she just doesn’t believe him. She asks to look at his texts. He says he doesn’t have any texts on his phone. She still doesn’t believe him. She’s heard rumors that he cheated on past girlfriends.

She points out that his clothes smell like another woman’s perfume, and he explains that he was attacked by one of those scent sprayers in Macy’s. He promises that there’s nothing tawdry to be found in his texts, and it would be a waste of everyone’s time for her to read them.

Wait a minute.  Did he originally say there weren’t any texts at all?

Then she points out a lipstick stain on the collar of his shirt. He tells her that it’s from his grandma hugging him when he picked her up from the old-folks home to take her to lunch. She doesn’t believe him. She wants to see the texts and she’s not giving up.

So he lets her see two of his texts. One is from his boss and one from his sister. He tells her that all the texts are that innocent, and there is no need for her to look at the rest of them. But there were hundreds more texts, and she refuses to believe they are all from bosses and sisters. “Who’s Brittany? Your sister’s name isn’t Brittany.”

It’s not impossible that the guy has a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of it. Brittany might even be grandma’s caretaker, for all we know.  He even has a logical reason why there was a receipt for the No Tell Motel in his pants pocket. But with all that explaining, why not just let her read the texts?

I know it’s a silly comparison, but also I think it’s a silly argument.

Judge Conley (Would he be the couples’ therapist in my scenario?) decided today that Scott Sanders would not get to see the rest of those secret “blog” notes.

Not much of a surprise there. Conley decided that since the DA didn’t know about the notes, there was no way they could have used them against Daniel during his trial.

Judge Conley did set a new sentencing date. On September 23, he will decide whether or not to uphold the jury’s recommendation to send Daniel to death row.

That’s the schedule for now, at least…

It’s worth noting that Californians will vote on whether or not to repeal the death penalty this November.

Waiting for the Punishment

For the last little while my blog has been all about the trial. I’ve been studying, questioning, and dissecting everything I’ve seen and heard and noticed. I took tons of notes. At some point I’m just going to suck it up and pay for the entire court transcript, though, because there is no way I caught it all.

I find it extremely interesting to see a trial unfold. What steps did the police take to solve the case? Was it the forensics? DNA? Maybe some video footage from a nearby security camera? And then there are the lawyers. Can I just tell you how cool I thought it was that I’d get to watch Matt Murphy in action? (I’d seen him on Dateline.)

Just from a courtroom junkie’s point of view, Daniel’s trial had it all. That’s why the media was always there in full force. But watching a court case on 48 Hours or 20/20 is a very different experience from being there in person. I wasn’t on the couch in my jammies. (I did sometimes eat snacks, though. Very quiet snacks.)

I had a personal interest in this case. This was my friend on trial. My friend who did some terrible and unforgivable things (and he’s the first to admit that), but still my friend.

You know, basically I do write this blog for myself. It’s a creative outlet, and it gives me a way to really scrutinize and investigate my friendship with Daniel, especially now that he is a convicted murderer.

I felt wound up and nervous when I sat in that courtroom. It was easy for people to figure out  I was there to support Daniel. He’d glance around and smile at me when he was walked in, and I’d see people turn around and try to figure me out. I knew that some of the principal players were reading my blog and I always felt this urge to explain myself. I wanted to tell people that I don’t think Daniel is innocent.  I don’t feel sorry for him that he’s in jail. I don’t doubt that he is a murderer, but I know he isn’t a monster.

I can already hear some of you typing your comments.

The jury did not agree with me. It took them less than an hour to decide Daniel should die.

When they went into deliberations at around 3:30, I don’t think anyone was expecting a verdict that day. Just in case, I had decided to hang around until 5:00 because that’s when the jury would go home for the day. A number of other people seemed to be doing the same thing.

Earlier that day, during the lunch break, I’d approached Mike the Bailiff to make a request.  I really wanted to be present when the jury came back with the verdict. Whether you believe Daniel deserves to have a friend or not, I was determined he’d have one in court when he learned his fate. So I wanted to know how I could get on a list of people who are notified when a verdict comes in.  The media people always seemed to know when things were happening and I thought there might be some kind of computerized contact list I could get on. I didn’t want a phone call or anything. I was just hoping for a group text.

I asked Mike if he knew who I was (Daniel’s friend). He smiled and said, “Hey there, blue hair.” Him quoting my blog made me laugh and helped me feel a little calmer (thanks, Mike).

Mike explained to me that there was no contact list. If I wanted to be notified, I would need to ask lead defense attorney Scott Sanders about it.


It’s ironic that even though I was there to support Daniel, I’d had virtually no contact with Scott. I wasn’t sure about his feeling on having a blogger write about his client at the same time he was trying to save the guy from the death penalty. The idea of approaching Scott made me nervous, but I was determined to not miss the reading of the verdict.

Remember, this was happening during the lunch break when I still thought the jury might actually take longer than 45 minutes to decide if Daniel should die.

So, I decided to muster my courage and try to talk to…Tracy LeSage Scott’s way-less-intense second in command.

When I saw the defense team getting off the elevator after lunch, I figured this was my best chance to get on that “group text” list I hoped existed. They all went into the courtroom, and I slipped in right after them.

Scott and Tracy were deep in discussion and pouring over paperwork, so I thought maybe I could get away with asking one of the young assistant lawyer guys about contacting me. I hoped I could discreetly give him my cell number and sneak away.


Scott stopped talking and looked up at me from his papers. As I choked out my request, I felt a tad out of place with my blue hair and tattoos. And I’m so short, I felt like a little kid standing in the middle of this sea of suit-wearing real grownups.

Scott Sanders looked perplexed. Then, he said that was fine, and to give my number to the other lawyer guy, who would call me when the verdict was in.

Calling. Old school.

Later, Daniel told me that Scott Sanders had asked him if it was okay for me to be contacted.  Daniel did want me called, but it turned out to be a moot point anyway.

I was one of the few people still in the courtroom when the phone rang on Mike the Bailiff’s desk. I figured it would just be the jury asking a question.  Maybe they needed a part of the transcript read back to them.  Perhaps they wanted some clarification on the specifics of a law.

Even Mike looked surprised when he announced that the jury already a verdict.

I stayed in my seat while the news spread to the people in the hallway. No one needed to be called on the phone.

I was more worried than I’d thought I’d be. I had always expected the jury would choose the death penalty, but inside me there was still a little battle going on between hope and fear. Admittedly, fear was kicking hope’s ass because of how fast the jury was coming back. There wasn’t nearly enough time for them to get all existential and decide that “an eye for an eye” might not be the way to go.

Sam’s and Julie’s loved ones sat all together in the center section in an obvious showing of solidarity. People  clung to each other and held hands.

I was surprised how quickly the water works came on me as soon as the verdict was announced. Lots of people were crying and wailing. It seemed more like tears of relief than of happiness, with an underlying feeling of heartbreak.

When it was all finished, the jury members smiled at the Herrs and the Kibuishis while they filed past them down the aisle. Eventually everyone had left the courtroom except me and Mike. I asked him if I could hang out for a few minutes and he obliged. I just couldn’t bring myself to go out in that crowded hallway quite yet.

I sat there with my face in my hands, crying for everyone.