Convicted killer Daniel Wozniak has been moved out of San Quentin and into a lower-security prison, angering family members of the two people he murdered and leading local prosecutors to reach out to the victims of other killers who have been sentenced to death.
District Attorney Todd Spitzer, in a July 28 letter to the families of Orange County victims of death row prisoners, warned that the prison-run “Condemned Inmate Transfer Pilot Program” is open to any condemned inmate who doesn’t have recent disciplinary issues, even those recently sentenced to death.
Wozniak received his death sentence in 2016, six years after killing Samuel Herr and Juri “Julie” Kibuishi in an attempt to fund his 2010 wedding. Sam’s father, Steve Herr, said he learned about Wozniak’s change in accommodations not from prison officials, but instead from an acquaintance of Wozniak’s who runs the “Daniel Wozniak is my friend” blog.
“It was a kick in the gut,” Steve Herr said. “It would have been nice for them to at least notify me… If I could, I would kill him myself. But that isn’t going to happen, so I want the harshest possible penalty.”
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials confirmed that Wozniak was transferred to Salinas Valley State Prison as part of the Condemned Inmate Transfer Pilot Program. CDCR Spokeswoman Terri Hardy also confirmed that all condemned inmates are eligible for the voluntary program “unless they have pending charges, have been found guilty of certain disciplinary offenses within the last five years or are in restrictive housing because of disciplinary reasons.
Prison officials indicated that nearly 60 inmates are currently involved in the program. They describe it as a way for those previously confined to death row to participate in rehabilitation and work programs in order to pay restitution to their victims or their families.
Herr questioned whether victims’ families such as his would want to see condemned inmates gain a change of scenery and more freedom in exchange for restitution.
“It’s like night and day, like going from Motel 6 to a Regent,” Herr said of Wozniak’s move from San Quentin to the Salinas Valley prison.
The OCDA’s office also criticized the program, with Spitzer writing in his letter raising concern about security if “cop killers, multiple murderers and prison gang leaders” were placed in the general prison population.
Matt Murphy, a former deputy district attorney who prosecuted Wozniak along with other death penalty cases, questioned whether moving the condemned inmates without warning violates victims’ rights. Murphy said that in his experience knowing an inmate will spend the rest of their life on death row is important to the families of their victims.
“That has meaning to these families, the location, the restrictive setting, all of that matters,” Murphy said. “We are not talking about someone who stole a car stereo, we are talking about a man who ruthlessly murdered two people so he could go on a honeymoon. The victims don’t want his money.”
Exactly how many additional privileges condemned inmates involved in the program will receive at the other prisons is unclear.
According to prison officials, the prisons the condemned inmates are eligible to move to must still be level 3 or 4 facilities, both of which are considered maximum security. However, prison officials in an online description of the program note that while prisoners on death row are kept in solitary cells, they can be re-evaluated when they move to the other facilities to see whether they can be housed in a cell with another inmate.
The Condemned Inmate Transfer Pilot Program was part of Proposition 66, a 2016 initiative approved by California voters that was meant to speed up executions.
There are more than 700 inmates on California’s death row, including more than 60 from Orange County. But no executions have taken place in more than a decade.
In 2016, voters were faced with competing ballot measures, one that would have repealed the death penalty, the other that was supposed to speed up executions. The latter met with voter approval.
In 2016, Gov. Newsom instituted the execution moratorium, withdrawing the state’s lethal injection protocol and closing the actual execution chamber at San Quentin. But the death penalty remains part of state law, and the actual death row sentences remained intact.
A review of prison inmate records showed that several other condemned prisoners from Orange County have been moved from San Quentin to other prisons, but it wasn’t immediately clear if they are part of the Condemned Inmate Transfer Pilot Program.
Carlos Martinez – who killed an elderly couple during a burglary – and Alfredo Valencia – who stabbed a man to death during a robbery – are both now at RJ Donovan Correctional Facility, a state prison near San Diego, according to prison records. Victor Miranda-Guerero – who raped and killed a woman on a Huntington Beach street – is now at Centinela State Prison in Imperial County.
Source: Orange County Register