The defense attorney for convicted murderer Daniel Wozniak argued in court Friday that he needs access to any secret records kept by Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies who worked with jailhouse informants in area lockups.
Public defender Scott Sanders said the documents could be crucial to a motion he's crafting asking an Orange County judge to grant Wozniak a new trial or throw out the death sentence recommended by jurors.
Wozniak, a 31-year-old community theater actor from Costa Mesa, was convicted last year of a gruesome double murder and bizarre attempted coverup from 2010.
Jurors convicted Wozniak of shooting to death Army veteran Sam Herr, 26, and Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, 23.
After the killings, Wozniak tried to throw police off his trail by staging Kibuishi's body to look as if Herr had sexually assaulted her and fled, according to prosecutors. He then tried to do away with Herr's body by dismembering it and tossing some of the limbs into a Long Beach park, authorities said.
After finding Wozniak guilty, jurors took about an hour of deliberation to decide he deserved the death penalty.
For the sentence to be finalized, a judge must confirm it at a hearing scheduled for next month.
Sanders, however, has crusaded against capital punishment for his client, arguing it's impossible for death-penalty defendants to receive a fair trial in Orange County because, he alleges, law enforcement and prosecutors routinely fail to turn over evidence to defendants that they're entitled to see. Most of his allegations focus on the use of informants in Orange County jails.
The county district attorney's office has said that any failure to hand over evidence was incidental and unintentional.
Most recently, Sanders issued two subpoenas seeking any notes kept by sheriff's deputies about their interactions with jailhouse informants.
Sanders said deputies may mistakenly believe that such notes are exempt from having to be turned over to defendants.
In court papers, Elizabeth Pejeau, deputy county counsel representing the Sheriff's Department, called Sanders' request overly broad and irrelevant to the Wozniak proceedings.
She has asked Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley to quash the subpoenas for any records not related to the Wozniak case.
Sanders and Pejeau are scheduled to present their sides to Conley on Tuesday.
It's an open question whether this will have any bearing on Wozniak's sentence.
A jailhouse informant did speak to Wozniak while he was behind bars, according to court records, but prosecutors say they immediately ruled out using any evidence gleaned from informants.
"In the court's view, the issue of informants was off the table before I ever got the case," Conley said during Friday's hearing.
If the notes prove to be important, Conley said he's open to delaying Wozniak's May 20 sentencing date so Sanders can argue his point.
But what happens depends on the contents of the documents Sanders has subpoenaed.
"This could be a bombshell or it could be a dud. We don't know," Conley said.
Jeremiah Dobruck, email@example.com