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Judge denies request to dismiss murder charges

Counsel for accused killer Daniel Patrick Wozniak argues that defendant was not properly informed of his rights.

February 15, 2013|By Lauren Williams

Charges against a Costa Mesa man accused in a double murder can stand, a judge ruled Friday.

Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler denied a request to dismiss charges against Daniel Patrick Wozniak, 28, who is accused of killing his neighbor and his neighbor's tutor in 2010.

Wozniak's attorney argued that police did not properly inform the defendant of his 5th Amendment — or Miranda — rights against self-incrimination before interviewing him.

Prosecutors said that Wozniak eagerly asked to talk with police shortly after the crimes.

Wozniak stands accused of killing 26-year-old Samuel Herr, an Army veteran and neighbor in the Camden Martinique apartment complex in Costa Mesa, and dismembering his body as part of a scheme to steal money from Herr's bank account. He also allegedly killed Herr's friend and tutor, Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, 23, of Irvine, at Herr's apartment in an attempt to frame Herr and throw off police.

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Police first arrested Wozniak on suspicion of taking money from Herr's account and enlisting the help of a 17-year-old boy to make withdrawals.

In an initial interview with police, Wozniak said he covered for Herr, who was on the run. Wozniak said he was helping Herr in a scheme to take money from his account. Later, according to court testimony, Wozniak asked to speak with police again, this time confessing to killing Herr and Kibuishi.

Before making his confession, Wozniak requested a lawyer. His public defender, Tracy LeSage, said when her client asked for a lawyer during the second interview, police should have immediately ended the conversation.

"That is not a conditional statement, that is not a question," LeSage said of her client's request.

Police told Wozniak that if he wanted an attorney, he couldn't speak with them, according to court testimony.

LeSage said that police misstated his Miranda rights.

"It's an incorrect statement of the law," LeSage said.

But prosecutor Seton Hunt said Wozniak asked to speak to police.

"This case involves an unequivocal statement," Hunt said. "In that set of circumstances, any officer would see that as unequivocal."

Stotler sided with the prosecution, saying only that he was familiar with the extensive body of case law surrounding Miranda rights.

Wozniak is next expected in court March 29.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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