Actor accused in 2 deaths shouldn't face death penalty, attorney says

Actor accused in 2 deaths shouldn't face death penalty, attorney says
Daniel Wozniak is accused of killing two people. His attorney wants the death penalty dropped. (Associated Press)

A community theater actor accused of killing two college students in an effort to get money for his approaching wedding should not face the death penalty because of misconduct by prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, an attorney for the accused man says.

In an 80-page summary of what he contends is a culture of misconduct and the misuse of jailhouse informants, Orange County public defender Scott Sanders argued that prosecutors should drop the death penalty against his client.


Daniel Patrick Wozniak, 30, admitted to authorities that he killed Samuel Herr, 26, and Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, 23, in 2010 so he could steal $50,000 from Herr's bank account, according to grand jury testimony.

Prosecutors say Wozniak staged Kibuishi's body inside a Costa Mesa apartment to look like Herr had sexually assaulted her. He also is accused of dismembering Herr's body in a theater at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base so he could hide the remains in a park in Long Beach.

Wozniak's case has been slowed by accusations of misconduct that Sanders has leveled against the Orange County district attorney's office and Orange County Sheriff's Department.

In the summary filed late last week, Sanders outlines what he believes to be a culture of Orange County law enforcement withholding evidence that could be helpful to defendants and misusing jailhouse informants to violate defendants' constitutional rights.

He says Wozniak was approached by a jailhouse informant to elicit a confession.

"The Orange County district attorney's office, and related law enforcement agencies, have proved over decades that they are willing to decide on their own who is guilty and who is not, who deserves to live and who to die, and to illegally create and withhold evidence in the pursuit of enforcing those decisions," Sanders wrote.

He argued that capital punishment should be ruled out for his client. Sanders has made a similar argument for another client -- Scott Evans Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to killing eight people in the Seal Beach salon shooting but who has yet to be sentenced. He also faces the death penalty.

But prosecutor Matt Murphy said the filing had little or nothing to do with Wozniak's case. Prosecutors say they will not use any information from jailhouse informants in Wozniak's trial.

"This has to be the biggest dud in the history of Orange County jurisprudence," Murphy said in court.

Sanders' summary is only a preview of his allegations, not an official request to dismiss the death penalty in the case, which caused some confusion in court Friday. Sanders explained that he wanted to give the court an idea of what he's been doing but said he needs more time to craft a final motion that he said could run 20,000 pages, an idea that Murphy mocked.

"Not only is that absurd, it's obscene," Murphy said, reminding the court that three deadlines for Sanders' motion have already passed.

A deadline for Sanders' motion to bar the death penalty is unclear. The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 13.