Waseem Daker was sentenced to life in prison plus 47½ years last fall for the killing of Delta flight attendant Karmen Smith in her east Cobb home and for stabbing her then-5-year-old son, who survived the attack, 18 times.
Daker spent more than nine hours Thursday and Friday telling Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley the reasons he believes he was denied due process and had his equal protection under the law violated during his September 2012 trial, over which she presided.
He accused Staley of failing to be impartial during the trial. Another centerpiece of his case for a new trial is the recanting of testimony by the state’s star witness, Loretta Spencer-Blatz, who rented part of the home where Karmen Smith also lived at 1580 Old Hunter’s Trace near Johnson Ferry Road.
Don Quinn, assistant district attorney, went through each of the motions Daker filed Friday morning abruptly dismissing each one as either having no evidence to support it or saying it did no harm to his defense.
“He’s filed motions to recuse with every judge who has touched his case,” Quinn told Staley on Friday. “I’m not going to go any further than to say this is a theme with him and should not be taken seriously.”
Daker says he didn’t get a fair trial
Trial prosecutors were given preferential treatment, Daker told Staley.
“Whatever the state asked for, you gave it to them and rubberstamped it,” Daker said, adding he was not afforded the same opportunities.
Daker elected to represent himself after working with a series of different lawyers and told the judge he was denied the ability to adequately research for his defense because he did not have access to a law library while in prison awaiting his trial.
But Quinn said he had plenty of information at his disposal and that was evident from the previous case rulings he cited during his defense.
“There’s a theme to Mr. Daker’s arguments,” Quinn said. “Everyone has wronged him.”
Still, Daker maintains some jurors may have been prejudiced because of his Middle Eastern descent.
Daker said prosecutors coached a witness through written correspondence to bring up his Syrian ethnicity during the trial. He says this was meant to feed on any biases jurors may have had against Arab-Americans.
“This is nothing but an equal protection, due process violation,” Daker said.
Recanted testimony calls evidence into question
Daker argues hairs found both on the body of Karmen Smith and on a blanket she was wrapped in is the only thing connecting him to the 1995 murder. In one of the two separate affidavits where Spencer-Blatz recanted her testimony, she says that this hair could have been left there before the murder when she and Daker shared the blanket.
But that affidavit has not been allowed to be entered into evidence.
Spencer-Blatz lived in the upstairs part of an east Cobb home where Karmen Smith resided with her son, Nick, downstairs. A Fulton County judge ordered Daker to have no contact with Spencer-Blatz in August 1995, two months before the Oct. 23 murder. He was arrested and held without bail on stalking charges against Spencer-Blatz on Oct. 27 and spent 10 years in jail on the charge.
It’s unclear whether Spencer-Blatz will be charged with perjury after recanting her testimony, but if she is charged and convicted, Daker’s conviction may not be in jeopardy.
“To the contrary, we stand by the defendant’s conviction and the overwhelming evidence of his guilt,” said Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans in an April statement. “This case was not about Ms. Spencer. She was but the backdrop to explain why the defendant would perpetrate the murder of Karmen Smith and the brutal assault on Nick Smith, persons who would otherwise be strangers to him.”
Judge will decide if subpoenas stand
On the first day of the hearing, Staley asked Daker how many people he subpoenaed to testify on his behalf. When Daker told her he lost count, she became frustrated and excused everyone present who had been ordered to appear.
Daker has 10 days to list the individuals subpoenaed and the reasons their testimony would be relevant. After that list is submitted, the district attorney’s office has 10 days to respond on whether or not it agrees with Daker’s reasoning.
Staley has not issued a ruling on his request for a new trial but said Friday he should prepare to shorten his arguments when he appeals her decision.
“They’re not going to give you 9½ hours like I have,” Staley said.
Michael Smith, the ex-husband of Karmen and Nick’s father, was at the hearing Friday and says he has faith in the district attorney’s office.
“The right man is in prison,” he said.
It’s not easy to sit in the courtroom again, almost a year after the conviction.
“We’ve been dealing with this for 19 years,” he said. “A month is a month compared to 19 years.”