Penalty Phase: Daniel’s Character Witness

We were down to the last two defense witnesses, including a character witness, and I don’t know if it would have been possible to find individuals on more opposite ends of the justice spectrum.

The first was Daniel Munoz, who met Daniel Wozniak when they were housed together at the Orange County Jail Intake and Release Center. They were like next-door neighbors… only in cells. The other defense witness was one of the lead detectives on the case: Det. Jose Morales of the Costa Mesa PD.

The Character Witness: Daniel Munoz

Okay, I’m going to admit it: my first reaction to seeing Munoz on the stand was, “WTF?” (I actually wrote that in my notes.)

I mean, I’m Daniel Wozniak’s friend, but no, I did not have an immediate positive reaction to Mr. Munoz being the one character witness the defense decided to put on the stand.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not badmouthing Munoz as a person, but him having a rap sheet as long as my arm probably didn’t do much to impress the jury. Matt Murphy made quick work of besmirching Munoz’s reputation during his cross-examination.

For me, it ended up being rather ironic, because when Daniel Munoz described our friend Daniel Wozniak, it didn’t sound much different from how I would describe him.

He told the jury that everybody liked Daniel Wozniak and he was always willing to help anyone who needed it. Daniel Wozniak was cheerful, honest, and generous.  He would share anything he had.  Daniel Wozniak never got into any fights. He never got angry or confrontational with anyone. Munoz even credited Daniel Wozniak for helping him get his own life back on track when he helped Munoz find religion.

Yes, I know the “finding religion” business is a prison cliché, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be true.  God and religion are very important in Daniel Wozniak’s life, so it doesn’t surprise me that these topics would come up in conversation. 

Munoz told the jury how you meet a lot of different types of people when you’re in jail. It seemed like he was saying this life experience gave him an ability to be a good judge of character.

It’s not as illogical an argument as it might sound. Making friends in jail must have its challenges, and the inmates in Orange County are even more wary after all the information that came out in the past year.

Oh, and Munoz also said that even the deputies at the Orange county jail like Daniel Wozniak.

This is actually true. I’ve seen it. He gets along really well with the deputies. He doesn’t cause trouble. He doesn’t get write-ups. He’s basically a model prisoner.

Cross-Examining Daniel Munoz

Matt Murphy’s cross of Munoz went exactly how I expected. There was a lot of talk about Munoz’s criminal record. Murphy asked questions about Munoz’s tattoos, suggesting that Daniel Wozniak might have been afraid of Munoz because he looked scary and had a bunch of “prison tats.”

 Matt Murphy, that just seems like a nonsensical argument considering the large proportion of inmates who have ink.  Tattoos are pretty common these days, both in prison and in “the real world.” I have seventeen myself.  Daniel Wozniak is probably one of the only inmates  without any tattoos.

 I wonder if any of the jury members have tattoos..?

Determined to discredit Daniel Munoz as a character witness, Matt Murphy hammered away at Munoz’s criminal record, to the extent that at one point Munoz even complained to the prosecutor, “You’re making me feel like I’m on trial here.”

Oh yeah? Try writing a blog about Daniel Wozniak…

When it was time for Scott Sanders to re-cross, he asked Munoz if there was benefit in coming to testify for Daniel Wozniak.  No, there wasn’t.  No deals were made. Munoz just insisted on testifying because he wanted to show the jury another side to Daniel Wozniak… the side he knows… the same side I know.

Why Didn’t I Testify?

That brings us to a question I’ve been asked more than once: Why didn’t I testify for my friend?

I’m an upstanding member of society; wouldn’t my opinion mean something to the jury?

My answer is: if I had been asked, I would have.  Daniel didn’t want those close to him to testify.

My personal gut feeling is that Scott Sanders might have wanted to call Daniel’s parents or other relatives to the stand.  Aside from me, Daniel has numerous people who are still close to him. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there were other people willing to testify on Daniel’s behalf.

That didn’t happen, though, and I’m pretty sure it was because Daniel wanted to spare his friends and loved ones from being cross-examined.

More questions for any jury members who are reading this:

  1. What did you think of Daniel Munoz’s testimony?
  2. Did you wonder why no one else testified for Daniel’s character?
  3. Would it have made any difference to you if there had been other character witnesses?

Coming Up: Detective Jose Morales

It was an interesting choice to call one of the CMPD officers in charge of the entire case as the last defense witness.

During the penalty phase, when the prosecution called Detective Morales to the stand he was mostly questioned about locations related to the crime.  He’d shown the spots on a map. Morales was also the officer who took the photos of the texts on Julie Kibuishi’s phone, the ones displayed during the guilt phase.

At that point in the trial, Scott Sanders didn’t even cross-examine Det. Morales when he was on the stand.

Now, the officer would be the final witness in an attempt to convince the jury not to execute Daniel.

I was intrigued.

That testimony will be up next on DWIMF.

Penalty Phase Prosecution Witnesses: Day Two

Day two of the penalty phase in the trial of Daniel Wozniak started with a ruling about bringing up the criminal background of defense witness Daniel Munoz, who would vouch for Daniel’s character later that day. Judge Conley used what he called a “quick and dirty approach” to go through the rather long rap sheet of this witness, and told Matt Murphy to “make (him) an offer” about what priors he wanted to mention to the jury. Munoz met Daniel when they were both in jail.

While Matt Murphy discussed Munoz’s numerous “scary” tattoos, I couldn’t help feeling that this man might not impress the jury that much.  I think his crimes were all theft related… maybe some gang stuff… I’m not sure.  Either way, I’m not knocking Mr. Munoz as a person, but as a character witness. He probably wasn’t up there with church pastor, you know?

After this business was settled, the bailiffs brought Daniel Wozniak into the courtroom.  You always know when they are bringing him into the courtroom because you can hear the cell doors clanking open and slamming shut right before he enters. It’s like a sound cue.

In spite of being on trial for murder, Daniel has a natural bounce in his step even when chained and handcuffed.  That probably rubs some people the wrong way.

There was a short wait before the jury was brought back in. One of them was running late. In that person’s defense, it had been seriously pouring rain that morning and there was flooding and traffic jams everywhere.  Give us Californians an earthquake and we’re fine, but when water falls from the sky, it causes problems.

Once everyone was in their spots, it was time for the prosecution to continue with witness testimony.

Emi Kibuishi

The next person up was Emi Kibuishi, the youngest of the Kibuishi children.  She described her big sister, Julie, as a loving protector with a big personality.  She, and a cousin, looked up to Julie and the three of them were always together.  They loved to dance.

At one point, Murphy put up a picture of the girls from Halloween.  Emi was a bunny and Julie was Jasmine from Alladin.

Julie’s murder happened on the day of Emi’s senior prom. The next morning, Emi was scheduled to try out for the spirit squad at the University of California, Irvine.  The family decided to keep her sister’s death from her until after.

Emi thought it was strange When the entire family came to pick her up after the tryout. But when she saw that her mother was crying, she immediately realized that Julie wasn’t in the car, and she knew something terrible had happened.

There was no cross-examination. Another good decision for Scott.

June Kibuishi

Julie’s petite and soft-spoken mother, June Kibuishi, was the final prosecution witness.  When I was going over my notes from the trial, I noticed that I didn’t have that many for Julie’s mom.  I don’t think she was on the stand for that long, but I still felt like my notes might have been lacking.

There were a lot of times that I cried during this trial, and I suspect that was the reason my notes are choppy.

When June Kibuishi had been pregnant with Julie, she was told she was having another boy. But on Valentine’s Day in 1987, the Kibuishi family was thrilled to welcome their first girl.  On the stand, June described her daughter as a bubbly and athletic tomboy who balanced playing softball with her love of dancing.  Her voice cracked as she told the jury about little girl’s fondness for skirt spins and curtsies.

Julie was accepted into the Commercial Dance Conservatory at the prestigious Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) in the eighth grade.  June Kibuishi proudly explained that this was when the school had first started accepting junior high students.

OCSA held a memorial for Julie at the ten-year reunion of her high school graduation. A plaque in her honor was put up at the school with the words: Juri “Julie” Kibuishi. Always in our hearts. Next to the message is an inlaid image of a dancing young woman.

Various photographs were displayed on the video screen during June Kibuishi’s testimony. We saw a picture of the plaque, one of the Kibuishi extended family in front of a Christmas tree, and another Julie and June together.  The two of them looked so happy in that image; June’s head resting on Julie’s shoulder.

At the end of her testimony, a sobbing June Kibuishi held up the tiara her daughter Julie was wearing when she was murdered.

And again, there was no cross-examination.  Phew.

The jury was sent out for a break, and an agitated Scott Sanders had a point to make with the judge.

The Tiara

There had been no disclosure to the defense that the clearly inflammatory tiara would be brought into court. It hadn’t been previously introduced as a piece of physical evidence.

Matt Murphy insisted that he had no idea what June Kibuishi had planned to say on the stand that morning, and that up until then, he thought the tiara had been cremated.

Scott countered that there was no way he could address the tiara with June—or question any of these grieving witnesses—without (I can’t remember exactly how he phrased it, but this is what I wrote in my court notes, so I’m not quoting here) looking like a dick.

Next time: the very first defense witness of the entire trial.