Some time has passed since I began writing the play by play of the trial. We all know how it ends, but people reading this are probably keen to learn all the details. That’s how I am. That’s why I went to the trial in the first place.
The “character” Murderer Musings TV Lawyer (MMTVL) is more from the point of view of an analytical jury member asking the questions one might want answered if given the task of deciding a death penalty case.
People are curious about the specifics. I’ve had friends ask me about my opinion on the defense put on by Scott Sanders. I’ll give you more of my thoughts on that when we get to the penalty phase of Daniel’s trial.
More Witnesses For The Prosecution: Anthony Celeste, Continued
In “Guilty Part Four,” we left off right after the lunch break on December 14, 2015, and Anthony Celeste was on the stand.
Anthony filmed each and every performance of the production of Nine, the play Daniel and Rachel were performing in on the days of the murders. Anthony was very familiar with the play.
Matt Murphy played the opening scene from each of the shows to see if there were any variations in the performances from night to night. Murphy pointed out that Daniel did a great job onstage and there was no difference in performances even though he had just committed two cold-blooded murders.
But during cross-examination, Anthony Celeste said Daniel’s performance was “off” on the night of Friday, May 21st. Anthony described him as sweating profusely, looking flush, and missing cues. The audience that night probably didn’t notice, but Anthony saw the show every night, and normally Daniel was “spot on.”
Anthony also answered questions about Rachel Buffett’s performance that night. He noted that, unlike her other performances, Rachel shed actual tears during her crying scene that night.. It wasn’t like her to be able to cry on cue.
MMTVL doesn’t really have any questions, but I want to say that Anthony Celeste did fine work filming the show. It looked great. And the stuff about crying on cue was pretty funny, but in Rachel’s defense, it is not easy to do that.
Witness Michael Anthony Cohen
Michael Cohen was one of the Costa Mesa Police Department officers who interviewed Daniel and eventually took his confession. It was during Cohen’s testimony that Matt Murphy showed the jury segments of the video of Daniel’s interrogation.
The Interrogation Video
The time stamp on the video showed that this was an edited version of the questioning. Who knows what was left out or why? But we saw Daniel change his story repeatedly before he gave his confession… and don’t think the detectives didn’t notice the discrepancies.
Some of you may have seen snippets of the video on the Dateline episode. Just so you know, I have made fun of him repeatedly for the Tommy Bahama shirt he wore. He was arrested at his bachelor party. I feel like this wasn’t a classy event.
The police brought Daniel in because they connected him to Sam Herr’s ATM card through Wesley. They are searching for Sam at this point: They still think he murdered Julie and is on the run. They even thought they might find Sam at the bachelor party.
Early on, Daniel owned up to being involved with Sam in a plan to defraud Sam’s bank. Sam gave Daniel his ATM card and PIN. Daniel would arrange for money to be taken out of Sam’s account. Sam would claim that he didn’t take the money out, and the bank would replace the “stolen” money. That was it. Daniel didn’t know where to find Sam. He didn’t know anything about Julie’s murder.
He admitted that he lied to the police (that happens a lot on the video). He knew more than he originally told them. Sam had come to Daniel and Rachel’s apartment early Saturday morning. Sam was “freaked out” and told Daniel that there was a body in his apartment. He’d shot Julie the night before during a drug and alcohol fueled fit of rage. He needed help getting away. He asked Daniel to take his laptop and get rid of it. Daniel dropped Sam off in Long Beach on Saturday afternoon. He didn’t know anything about the murder weapon. He hadn’t even seen it.
The CMPD wanted to know why Daniel agreed to help a murderer escape.
Daniel claimed he was afraid for his and Rachel’s safety. Sam had threatened to kill them both if Daniel didn’t help him. In return for helping Sam get away, Daniel would take all of Sam’s money out of his bank account. Some of the money would get to Sam. Daniel would keep the rest. He insisted that Rachel didn’t know anything about any of it.
The CMPD wanted to know how Daniel was going to get the money to Sam.
Now Daniel acknowledged that Sam had purchased a burner phone. Sam would eventually call Daniel with information on how to get him money.
The police ask Daniel for a DNA sample to “eliminate” him. He obliged, but remembered that he had been in Sam’s apartment on Friday night. He had used the bathroom.
At this point, Daniel agreed to tell the officers everything ; anything he could do to get out of jail for his wedding that Friday.
The officers were not buying Daniel’s story. He wasn’t going anywhere.
He was being charged as an accessory to murder.
Daniel was in a lot of trouble. The police suggested he cooperate. Tell them everything. Lead them to Sam. That would look better for him in court. He should “man up.” The officers asked him what they should tell his fiancée. “Tell her I’m sorry,” he quietly mumbled.
Things continued to get worse for Daniel. The police tried a perfectly legal but dishonest tactic.
They told Daniel about finding his DNA at Julie’s crime scene.
His story changed again.
Sam had taken Daniel up to his apartment and Daniel had seen “the goddamned body.” He said he saw the bullet holes in Julie’s head.
Things really unraveled for Daniel after that. Officers said that seasoned detectives weren’t able to see the bullet holes because of Julie’s position and her hair. Daniel tried to talk his way out of this error by saying Sam had told him that there were two shots. This didn’t work.
Now they were sure that Daniel was part of this murder. Maybe he even shot Julie. They tried to convince Daniel to “let it go” and that he would “feel much better,” once he told them the truth.
Daniel wanted to talk to Rachel.
That is where Judge Conley ended for the day.
Next up – The last witnesses