Speaking publicly for the first time since her murder conviction, Diana Haun on Tuesday accused her former lover, Michael Dally, of betraying her and called him a “psychotic.”
Without elaborating on her case, Haun told reporters that she did not kill Sherri Dally and believes co-defendant Michael Dally manipulated and misled her during their relationship.
“The Mike I had fallen in love with back then never existed,” Haun said in an interview at the Ventura County Jail. “It was all false.”
The 36-year-old convicted killer also criticized her two court-appointed attorneys for not allowing her to testify during her murder trial, and she strongly rebutted claims that she practiced witchcraft.
“That’s totally false,” she said. “I am not a witch.”
Haun spoke out hours after she appeared in Ventura County Superior Court for a hearing on her request for a new trial. Her remarks coincide with the start of deliberations in Dally’s murder trial.
Last week, defense attorneys argued that Dally played no role in his wife’s murder and called Haun a “psycho, crazed, whacked-out witch” who killed Sherri Dally in a jealous rage.
Haun was convicted last fall of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy for fatally stabbing her lover’s wife. Dally faces the same charges.
Without discussing specific allegations or evidence in the case, Haun said Tuesday that she was wrongly convicted.
“I am innocent,” she said in a soft, shy voice. “I think it was wrong to send me away for something I didn’t do.”
She would not discuss further the charges against her ex-lover. But she did talk briefly about their once-torrid relationship, and the man who in letters called her his “soul mate.”
“The Mike who wrote those letters never existed. He was a false, made-up person,” she said, adding that she now feels betrayed by him. “I think he’s a psychotic.”
Haun is serving a life sentence at a woman’s prison in Chowchilla but was transferred to the Ventura County Jail for her court appearance Tuesday.
Haun said she has not followed Dally’s trial but sometimes gets updates from her relatives. The two have not communicated since last spring.
That was when Haun found out from a prostitute in County Jail that Dally had been unfaithful to her by having sex with other women. Asked how she now feels about Dally, Haun said simply: “Not very good at all.”
During the interview, which lasted about 30 minutes, Haun clasped her hands beneath a table. Dressed in blue jail clothes and a large gray sweatshirt, she smiled and laughed nervously, occasionally glancing at her new Sherman Oaks attorneys, Eric A. Chase and Barry O. Bernstein, for guidance.
And despite lashing out at the media for what she says was unbalanced coverage of her case, Haun answered every question posed by reporters except those ruled out of bounds by her lawyers.
Off-limits were questions about Dally’s guilt or innocence, evidence linking her to the crime or any deals that may have been offered by the prosecution in exchange for her testimony.
Haun freely discussed her new life in prison and her hopes for an appeal. And she was quick to argue prosecutors’ allegations that she was a witch.
“I think they were grasping at straws,” she said.
Detectives seized books on witchcraft from Haun’s home during their investigation. But she said witchcraft, like other subjects, was simply a curiosity.
“I at one point was interested in the stars,” she said with a laugh. “I just like to learn.”
In regard to her six-week trial, Haun said that she did not get along with her two public defenders, Neil Quinn and Susan Olson, and wanted new attorneys months before the trial started. She also said she wanted to testify in her defense.
“From the first day I met Neil, I felt he didn’t like me,” Haun said.
The purported conflict was among issues raised during the hearing Tuesday before Judge Charles W. Campbell Jr., who presided over Dally’s trial.
Campbell rejected Haun’s plea for a new trial, noting that another judge had already dismissed a request made before Haun was sentenced in November.
“You do not get two bites of the apple,” Campbell told Chase, one of Haun’s new attorneys.
Chase argued that his client should have been able to pick her own lawyers since she was ultimately ordered to pay the $200,000 fee to cover the cost of her assigned public defenders.
“I’m not making a direct claim that the attorneys who tried her case made a mistake,” Chase told reporters outside the courtroom. “But we may make that claim in the future.”
Chase also said Haun regrets that she has kept quiet until now. He said that his client wishes that she would have had a chance to deny the charges against her in court.
“The jury would have liked Diana Haun,” Chase said. “She is eloquent and persuasive. She is an extremely intelligent, charming, sympathetic person.”
Haun’s new lawyers have already notified a higher court that they intend to file an appeal. That process could take months, if not years.
Haun’s lawyers arranged for her to meet with reporters from two newspapers shortly after the hearing. After working out details on how the interviews would be conducted, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department officials agreed to allow reporters to meet briefly with Haun and her lawyers in an interview room.
Haun said she is hopeful her appeals will be successful and result in her release from prison. She said she misses simple pleasures, such as going to a movie or shopping. And she especially misses her family.
“They are not very happy. They want me home,” she said.
Prison policy allows her only one phone call a month, but she says she keeps in contact with her mother, Kiku, and her brother and sister, James Haun and Mary Oliver, through letters. Her family has visited her at Chowchilla four times since her sentencing four months ago.
She is on a waiting list for a prison clerical position, she said. For the time being, most of her days are spent reading Christian literature, she said.
“God has kept me sane through this whole case,” she said. “I’ve been somewhat of a closet Christian. It’s helped me cope with being locked in.”
Times staff writer Hilary MacGregor contributed to this story.