Incriminating Letter Is Not Defendant's, Witness Says : Courts: A handwriting analyst's testimony may bolster the defense in the trial of a woman charged in the slaying of her pornographer husband.


A handwriting expert testified Friday that a Woodland Hills woman on trial for murder did not write a letter in which she purportedly admitted her role in the machine-gun slaying of her pornographer husband.

Nor was the letter written by Victor Diaz, the confessed triggerman who brought the letter forward Wednesday in the San Fernando Superior Court trial of Sharon Snyder, the expert said.

Diaz, the prosecution's chief witness, surprised the court earlier this week when he testified that the defendant had sent him a letter implicating herself in the slaying of her husband, Theodore Snyder.

The victim, a flamboyant producer of sex videos, was gunned down on a Northridge street Aug. 1, 1989.

Prosecutors were unaware of the letter before Diaz, 47, disclosed its existence Wednesday. Diaz has made a deal with prosecutors in which he will receive a reduced sentence in exchange for testifying against Sharon Snyder, 41.

The letter was studied by Los Angeles police handwriting expert Phora Craigh, who testified Friday that she compared it to handwriting samples of both Snyder and Diaz and determined that neither of them wrote the letter.

It was unclear what effect Craigh's analysis could have on the case.

The letter, if it had been authenticated, would have been a boost to the prosecution's case. But its classification as a phony may now bolster the defense's attack on Diaz's credibility, said Snyder's attorney, Alex R. Kessel.

"The letter was contrived by Diaz," Kessel said. "The bottom line is I think he had someone do it. He had it prepared."

Judge Malcolm H. Mackey has refused to make the letter public because it has not been entered into evidence in the trial. But Kessel, who said he would seek its admission next week, said the letter contains intimate details about the slaying and about Sharon Snyder, making it clear that the writer was familiar with the case.

Kessel said he believes Diaz had someone prepare the letter with information he provided so that he could use it, if needed, to bolster his credibility when seeking a deal with police and prosecutors.

"I think it is Diaz attempting to build his own credibility," Kessel said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Lawrence E. Mann has refused to comment on the case and could not be reached for comment Friday.

During his testimony this week, Diaz said he was a longtime cocaine supplier to the Snyders and that he killed Theodore Snyder at the defendant's request because he was in love with her and she had promised to share her inheritance with him.

Although his company had filed for bankruptcy at the time of his death, Theodore Snyder owned a Rolls-Royce, a seven-seat airplane and numerous pieces of expensive jewelry, authorities said.

Diaz revealed the letter's existence while being cross-examined by Kessel. The attorney said he had received reports from jail inmates that Diaz was talking about such a letter but expected him to deny its existence.

Instead, Diaz acknowledged that he had received such a letter and had turned it over to his attorney. Diaz's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Alan Budde, surrendered the letter to the court Thursday morning. He has refused to comment on the letter or how it might affect the case.

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