A Cobb County man convicted in September of killing a Delta Air Lines flight attendant returned to court Thursday in hopes of securing a new trial.
Waseem Daker, acting as his own attorney, was sentenced to life plus 47 years in the stabbing and strangling of Karmen Smith in 1995 and seriously wounding her 5-year-old son. The bizarre saga added a new chapter earlier this year when a key prosecution witness from the murder trial recanted her testimony, saying Daker never assaulted her or threatened her with a firearm, as she previously claimed.
Loretta Spencer Blatz, who sat behind Daker in court Thursday, said in two affidavits filed in April that she was suffering from depression and was under the influence of painkillers and “other substances” when she testified against him.
It’s unclear whether Blatz will testify at the hearing. Daker, appearing in handcuffs, said Thursday that he had “lost count” of how many witnesses he subpoenaed but, when pressed by Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley, estimated the number at more than 60. Staley released the witnesses until the defendant can provide a written proof as to why they were called.
On Wednesday, Daker moved to disqualify the entire Cobb bench and the District Attorney’s Office from hearing his case. Kim Isaza, a spokeswoman for Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds, said the motions were related to Daker’s conviction in 1996 of stalking Blatz. A visiting judge rejected those motions.
Prosecutors in the murder case argued that Daker killed Smith and attacked her son because they interfered with his attempts to harass Blatz, who lived upstairs from the victim.
Though he had long been a suspect, authorities were unable to connect Daker to the slaying until 2009, when they discovered his hairs on a blanket found at the crime scene.
Before his sentencing, Daker told Staley: “I did not kill Karmen Smith. I did not stab Nick Smith. I hope that one day the truth comes out because this is not it.”
Blatz attempted in her affidavits to explain away the DNA evidence, saying Daker had slept under that blanket when the two spent the night together before she moved in with Smith.
Cobb County Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in April that jurors in the murder case told him their verdict “was not based solely on the veracity” of Blatz’s testimony.
Despite the new revelations, Evans said he believed the conviction will stand.
“This case was not about Ms. Spencer (Blatz),” Evans said. “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.”
During the murder trial, prosecutors played several recorded phone calls in which Blatz could be heard begging Daker to stop calling her.
She has refused to speak with prosecutors since renouncing her testimony.
Daker, meanwhile, blamed Staley for his current predicament.
“I was denied a fair trial because I was denied a fair judge,” Daker said Thursday.
The hearing will resume Friday morning.