A Woodland Hills woman was acquitted Friday of hiring a man to kill her pornographer husband, who died in a burst of machine-gun fire two years ago on a Northridge street.
San Fernando Superior Court jurors, who deliberated five days before reaching a verdict, said they did not believe the testimony of the prosecution’s chief witness against Sharon Snyder, 41.
The witness, Victor Diaz, 47, who admitted killing flamboyant sex-video producer Theodore J. Snyder, testified that he did it at Sharon Snyder’s behest because he was in love with her and she had promised to share her inheritance with him.
In return for his testimony, Diaz, an admitted cocaine dealer, was allowed to plead no contest to second-degree murder and has been promised a maximum sentence of 17 years to life.
Had she been convicted, Snyder could have been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
After the verdict was read, Snyder smiled broadly for several minutes, then quickly left with bailiffs.
Her attorney, Alex J. Kessel, said that she was expected to be released from custody late Friday. She has been held without bail since her arrest in January, 1990.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Lawrence E. Mason, who was out of town Friday, said previously that regardless of the outcome of Snyder’s trial, prosecutors would stick with the bargain they made with Diaz “because we think he told the truth in court.”
Jurors said that Diaz’s credibility plummeted when he said that Snyder had sent him a letter from jail implicating herself in the Aug. 1, 1989, slaying and pleading with him to “take the whole rap for me.”
The letter, which had been in the possession of Diaz’s lawyer for 16 months, was pronounced to be a fraud by a handwriting expert called to court.
Jurors said they concluded that Diaz had a friend write it and mail it to him to help in his plea bargaining with prosecutors.
The fraudulent letter “convinced us, among other things, that Diaz was just out to reduce his own sentence,” said a juror who declined to give her name.
Jury foreman Terry Martin of Valencia said, “The law provides that there has to be physical evidence, or some evidence, to substantiate” self-serving testimony such as Diaz’s.
“We just couldn’t find any concrete evidence to support him,” Martin said, noting that there was no evidence to support the claim of a romance between Diaz and the defendant.
Jurors also said they concluded that Diaz, who admitted in court that he and Theodore Snyder had argued over a drug deal shortly before the killing, had his own motive for the slaying.
On the stand, Diaz acknowledged that Theodore Snyder had threatened to kill him over a disputed drug sale. But Diaz said that he did not kill Snyder to prevent his own death because the $2,500 in question “wasn’t enough for him to kill someone over.”
Testifying in her own defense, Sharon Snyder said there was no romantic link between her and Diaz, saying he was no more than a social friend and drug supplier to her and her husband.
She also disputed suggestions by prosecution witnesses that she was bitter because her husband had forced her to have sex with other men while he videotaped the activity.
Snyder said that she had performed sexually with other men for many videos, but never did it unless she wanted to.
She said her husband enjoyed not only filming the videos, “but he loved to watch them over and over again.”
In rebuttal to the prosecution’s argument that she had her husband killed to get his wealth, Snyder said she and her husband were broke and barely able to support their cocaine habits.