Friday, February 18, 2011 at 4:54 p.m.
Other than Tony Rackauckas' top slot, there's probably no more prominent job in the Orange County District Attorney's office than chief of the homicide unit. Indeed, there's a long list of notable people who've headed the unit, including Judge Francisco Briseno, Lew Rosenblum, Christopher Evans and, the man who recently retired, Dave Brent.
Last month while I was on vacation, Rackauckas named Dan Wagner to the weighty post where, no joke, several members of the prosecution team are legal superstars who have been featured on shows like ABC's 20/20 and NBC's Dateline.
The move isn't a shock to his co-workers, who know him as an even tempered, insightful veteran. During his 17 years in the DA's office, Wagner--a 1992 graduate of UC Hastings Law School--has served in a variety of positions including at juvenile court, municipal court and on the felony panel as well as the gang and homicide units. He recently ended a one-and-a-half-year stint as head of the office's North Court operations in Fullerton.
Wagner's trial experience is vast as well, having won conviction in high-profile cases including a 2007 gang murder death penalty case and a 2009 Irvine case in which a man murdered his wife and mother-in-law and then hid their bodies in an bathtub filled with ice. He also handled the case of Truong Tran, the Little Saigon shopkeeper and video pirate whose display of a Ho Chi Minh poster caused riots in 1999.
"I feel very honored and privileged to get the post--and sort of intimidated by the stature of the lawyers who have held the job before me," Wagner told me. "Our office is blessed to have a very talented and experienced group of lawyers and support staff on our Homicide Unit, and I'm delighted to be back working with them again. It's their talents and efforts that make me optimistic that the unit will continue to serve our community in the tradition of excellence."
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly