“When I’m with the guys there I don’t think about their crime, because they’re not their crime. It’s the man in front of me and whatever he did, that’s something that he did in the past…he’s already been judged so I don’t need to be doing that.” — Father George Williams, San Quentin’s Catholic chaplin
Daniel is comparatively new to death row. He has less than two years under his belt, whereas many of the inmates on the row have been incarcerated at San Quenin for decades. As Daniel has become accustomed to his new surroundings, he has shared his experience with me along the way.
I talk to Daniel Wozniak on the telephone regularly. We write each other often. I’ve even visited him at San Quentin a couple of times. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about how death row functions in the state of California.
As you all know, I’m fascinated by this world behind bars, so when I came across a podcast produced entirely within the walls of the San Quentin State Prison, I was hooked right away.
How Ear Hustle Interviewed Daniel Wozniak
Ear Hustle is the project of Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor, co-founded with Antwan Williams. Antwan and Earlonne are inmates, and Nigel is a visual artist who volunteers at the prison.
Although Daniel Wozniak and Earlonne Woods are incarcerated in the same California state prison, their experiences in San Quentin are not that similar. Ear Hustle focuses the world of the “mainline,” where Earlonne Woods is housed, and life there looks quite different from Daniel’s on the “the row.”
That’s because death row is considered a completely separate prison within the prison. Daniel lives by much stricter rules and has a lot less freedom than the mainline prisoners.
Ear Hustle recently released an episode called “The Row” focused entirely on San Quentin’s condemned unit and how it differs greatly from being incarcerated on the mainline. Earlonne and Nigel wrote a letter inviting death row inmates to contact Ear Hustle if any of them were willing to share their experiences. I’m not sure how many responses they received, but one of them was from my friend Daniel Wozniak.
Daniel agreed to the podcast interview, but there was a major logistical issue.
As death row is a separate prison, the inmates housed there are not permitted inside the media lab where Ear Hustle is recorded. Without ever leaving the grounds of San Quentin, Daniel could walk into another room and suddenly be outside the confines of his prison. Big no-no.
As they said on the podcast, and I’ve heard Daniel say this regularly, a “workaround” needed to happen. The interviews would take place over the telephone. In Daniel’s case, he was brought into the East Block Custody Sergeant’s office for his interview, which took about ninety minutes.
Daniel was asked about his life behind bars, his methods for coping with incarceration, and how he feels about his future. He did a good job. He’s grown up a lot since the Lock Up debacle of 2011.
One of his statements did cause him a little bit of grief with some inmates. In his interview, Daniel spoke about not wanting to waste his life in spite of being behind bars. He mentioned how some inmates spend all day watching TV, and he personally didn’t want to live like that.
Daniel didn’t mean for this to come off as judgmental of anyone, but a few guys took it that way. Some people were insulted. Apologies were made and all is well.
And you don’t need to be an inmate to spend all day watching TV. Am I right?
There were two other death row inmates interviewed for the episode. They had both been in San Quentin for decades. Unlike Daniel, these men had been around long enough to remember the last time an execution actually took place. They have experienced death on death row.
How Other Prisoners View Life on Death Row
Ear Hustle interviewed some mainline inmates who were also around during the last execution in 2006. For me, the most enlightening part of the podcast was learning how some mainline inmates feel about the condemned men on the other side of the prison.
Some felt sorry for them and took a “there for the grace of God…” attitude when asked about death row. Some were indifferent. Others envied the solitude given to the death row inmates: “If you have to live the rest of your life in prison, that would be the spot,” explained one inmate who pointed out that the guys on death row don’t have “cellies.”
But Earlonne Woods countered that line of reasoning by pointing out the many freedoms given to the mainline population as compared to the row. On the mainline, inmates can be out of their cells for most of the day. They can go to yard, they can spend time with their fellow inmates, and they have numerous classes and programs offered to them.
Daniel told me that sometimes bands come and play outdoor concerts for the mainline population. Occasionally inmates will even get up onstage for a jam session. Daniel said there’s also an annual visit from the NBA Golden State Warriors basketball team, and they play a game against the San Quentin inmate team. Sometimes the inmates win. It appears there is some sadly wasted talent behind those walls.
On the podcast, Nigel pointed out the “incredible disconnect,” between the death row and mainline populations. I knew about the separation, but I hadn’t realized that mainline inmates aren’t even allowed to speak to the death row inmates.
Separation and Isolation
When a death row inmate is being walked past in the yard, mainline inmates are expected to stop what they are doing, turn, and look away. The guard accompanying the condemned man walks with his baton out and at the ready. This is a security measure to protect the DR inmate, whose hands are cuffed behind his back. (On Ear Hustle there was a question about if death row inmates are shackled at the waist as well, but in Daniel’s experience, they are only handcuffed behind their backs)
Daniel insists he told me about this practice when he first got to San Quentin, but I don’t remember it at all. Maybe my dogs were loudly flipping out about a UPS delivery, and I couldn’t hear Daniel on the telephone. This happens a lot.
Daniel says he told me all about the first time he was escorted across a yard. A mainline prisoner, who was likely new to the San Quentin population, approached Daniel and enthusiastically pointed out how he recognized him from the TV show Crime Watch Daily. Luckily for that guy, the baton-holding guard responded to the “threat” verbally, and not physically.
I think I would have remembered that story.
Listening to Ear Hustle really brought home how death row can seem like such a hopeless place. On the mainline, redemption is a possibility. Even men with life sentences are encouraged to change, improve, and reform. However, the inmates on death row “are not allowed to change,” says Father George Williams. “They are stuck in being the worse thing they ever did.”
Earlonne Woods reminded the listeners that not everyone on death row is a serial killer, and there are plenty of convicted murderers on the mainline. A lot depends on the prosecutor, the jury and the police reports. “Some of the guys are here on the mainline for committing the same types of crimes that put other guys on death row,” Nigel pointed out.
In his interview, Daniel talked about how he’s had people support him along the way, and how he’s been able to change from the man he was before his incarceration. Daniel feels as though that person is dead. The man responsible for the murders of Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi is the one who was given the death penalty. Daniel is now becoming a new and better person.
I like to think I’m one of the supportive people helping Daniel become a better person. Also, I’m torn by the idea of Daniel completely detaching himself from the murderer who lived inside him.
I agree he isn’t that man anymore. But the heartbreak and destruction from Daniel’s past deeds are still very real to Sam and Julie’s loved ones. Daniel Wozniak’s redemption is likely of no concern to the Herr and Kibuishi families.
I’m guessing there are very few people who care about the redemption of any of the men on San Quentin’s death row. Which is why Steve, one of the other death row inmates interviewed, believes “any acts of redemption or self transformation that anybody makes on death row, it has to come from themselves.”
7 thoughts on “Daniel Wozniak on the Ear Hustle Podcast”
I’m really interested in your blog and look forward to your book. I have always been drawn to crime stories and to try to figure out the person behind the crimes, but I do have a question. Are you ever worried that Daniel is manipulating you, and painting himself as a different person? He is an actor after all, and I can’t stop thinking about his spot on performances after he committed the murders, and after he dismembered Sam. I would like to think that I’m too aware to be sucked in, but I really don’t know. How do you guard against this?
Excellent work as always, MM.
Murphy should ask Dave a few questions regarding his daughter, Rachel, and her so-very-sheltered-upbringing that forced her to follow rules/laws and attend Cottonwood.
Ironically, from 9/11, not 2001, but 1996:
“Dave Buffett, whose five children are taught at home, said his kids would be vulnerable to citations because they are often outside during regular school hours when they take breaks from their lessons.
‘I see as many potential problems [in the ordinance] as you have people sitting here,’ Buffett said, referring to the packed council chambers.
‘We didn’t elect you to force your opinions on us. We’re telling you we don’t want it,’ he added.'”
The Buffetts are savants. Rachel is “better than.” Teacher Dave is “better than.” Beauty Specialist Maryanne is “better than.” Wine Expert Noah is “better than.” Corks Away Nathan is “better than.” Help-My-Sister Hannah is “better than.” Guitar Maker Abraham is “better than.” Taught and ingrained by Dave and Maryanne from birth. Reinforced by Guilty Noah, and somewhat by Nathan. Hannah (“I’m a cartoon”) and Abraham (the quasi-Native American who smokes the ganja like Sam (that’s right, Reuben, (“It’s like a dorm. People always drinkin’ and smokin’.”)) provide youthful support.
Do understudies only create havoc everywhere? Family.
First letter above, Scott Loren Sanders during the sentencing phase provided the perfect synopsis of Rachel. The home-schooled, middle child, deer-in-the-headlights, woe-is-me, persona is an act–and a terrible one at that. Very sorry, Sandy.
So what did Guilty Noah do after Sam’s murder (albeit a few years thereafter)? He opened a “private club”–“Bunker Bar,” a military-themed bar in Brea.
“Brea, he said, has a reputation of supporting veterans . . .”
The guilt is overwhelming, to say the least. Cottonwood!
For those who are “shocked” with the “delays” in this case (ahem, Lauren (and your Son of Sam nonsense is frivolous and absurd from a legal standpoint)) and in Orange County criminal prosecutions in general: When your IMDB seeking headliner Dateline DA lives in a $2.3 million house in Manhattan Beach, that commute is difficult, and he has to keep up his reputation–UCSB is the hip, bro school of the UC system. Matty can’t be that far from the beach for that long.
Want more quotes?
“I babysat dumbass kids all day for 20 years. Love retirement.”
“Anaheim Hills is an upgrade from Santa Clarita.”
A reason he became “friends” with his son was due to the fact that Sam on numerous occasions admitted that he would kill him given the opportunity.
I love CSUN alumni events.
Petra? Petra. Where are you? An 8,000 mile away alleged fiance, not even available for a phone conversation, or her existence.
I am here to commend you for seeing humanity in someone that most people would or could not. I’m guilty of some horrific inspeakable things myself. When I think of them, I hate myself & I want to kill myself. But when I think back to how I ended up doing that it was 100% because of the abuse I suffered as a child. It was severe & it was daily. As my brain was developing I was made to believe I was worthless trash. My mother used to constantly tell me that I’d, “end up in the back of a police car by the time you’re 10!!” and, “I wish you were never born!” But I was a good kid! I just wanted to please her because so I took on responsibility for her mental health. I never could make her happy. It broke me. Broken I did things I will always hate myself for. It would mean the world to me to share the details with someone and still have them show concern for me. I don’t in any way condone D.W.’s crime, of course! I am devastated for those his choices impacted. So to be clear I am in no way condoning that what so ever. What I AM doing is thanking you because you make me feel worthy of compassion myself. By the way, I would never ever do what I did again. And although I didn’t kill anyone I still did something I am so ashamed of. But when the light & life is extinguished out of a child, bad things can happen. (By the way, your blog posts are bigger than the page making it very difficult to read.)
Thank you so much for sharing your story.
I just finished reading the book Mindhunter by John Douglas. He’s a retired FBI agent who is an expert and forerunner in using criminal profiling to catch murderers. It’s a great book!
I find this quote from the book quite eye opening:
In all my years of research and dealing with violent offenders, I’ve never yet come across one who came from what I would consider a good background and functional supportive family unit…. Somewhere along the line, someone who provided a profound negative influence could have provided a profound positive one instead.
Speaking of podcasts, Linda Sawyer just announced that iHeart Radio will feature her podcast, Sleuth. Linda said, “The first season will showcase the notorious case of double murderer Daniel Wozniak.” Linda has an extensive history producing crime shows, so her podcast will be great!
The release date is not announced, yet. Here is the link to iHeart Radio’s crime podcasts.
The premiere date for Episode One of the first Season of i
HEART RADIO’S true crime podcast SLEUTH is scheduled to be released on Wednesday, August 27th. 2018. Hope you all tune in. Best regards, Linda Sawyer
I wish Linda the best of luck. She did ask to interview me for her podcast, but I said no for now.