by Virginia McCullough

On October 11, 2005 murder defendant Susan Polk sat quietly next to her co-counsel Ivan Golde as her lead defense attorney Daniel Horowitz addressed the jury that was supposed to sit in judgment of her.  Deputy district attorney Tom O'Conner had just finished a well organized, hard hitting opening statement to the same jury.  When Daniel Horowitz rose to speak to the jury he opened up his lap top computer on the table before him.  Throughout his opening statements Horowitz used his computer to show the jury autopsy pictures of the deceased Felix Polk and to play an audio tape of Felix Polk speaking at a conference about the multiple personalities he claimed inhabited his son Adam.  The lap top computer contained all of the audio, visual and documentary evidence that was an essential part of the defense's attack on the prosecutor's allegations.

Defendant Susan Polk was pleading self defense in response to the first degree murder charges filed against her by the Contra Costa County District Attorney in the October 2002 death of her husband 70-year-old Berkeley psychologist Felix Polk. This high profile case featured years of alleged domestic abuse that had torn a family apart and had attracted national attention. The courtroom was full and people sat on hard wooden benches in the hallway waiting to get seats as they became available.

Seated in the front row was a pretty woman with long dark hair who focused on Daniel Horowitz with the eyes of a woman in love.  A slight smile would cross her lips when the defense attorney would strike an obvious cord with the jurors.  There was also a look of pride when Horowitz would trigger exhibits from the lap top to emphasize a point. When Judge Laurel Brady called a brief recess Horowitz quickly sought out this woman's face in the audience with a inquisitive look that seemed to ask, "How am I doing?"

The beautiful woman with the silky hair was Pamela Vitale, Daniel Horowitz's wife of eleven years.  Pamela was the mother of two grown children, Marisa, 28, and Mario Jr., 30, whom she had raised alone.  By all accounts she was a devoted mother proud of her children. Independent and assertive she stood out in a crowd, not because she was loud or outspoken, but because her quiet beauty and concern for all around her created an aura that attracted family, friends and strangers to her side.  She treated all she met with the same degree of respect and care.

Pamela loved to play the piano and work in the garden.  She was constantly educating herself in her areas of interest.  She had studied film production and kept up to date in the world of high tech by learning about the growing field of computers interfacing with art.  She absorbed knowledge as though it was an essential commodity for her existence.

This independent woman who possessed an inner calm had raised her children in southern California working to support them at Pacific Bell and Hewlett Packard.  While there she also studied film and became an independent film producer.  Later she moved to northern California and worked for Ascential Software formerly Informix Software.  The company sold software to broadcasters combining two of Pamela Vitale's passions.  During this transition period in the lives of Pamela and her children, she met up with an intense defense attorney with street smarts named Daniel Horowitz.  Neither Pamela or Daniel were ever the same after that meeting.

A Valley Times article dated October 21, 2005 by Nathaniel Hoffman and Sara Steffens quotes Bay Area attorney Jo Ann Kingston comments about that meeting. In 1993 Kingston was working in Horowitz's Oakland office when "Danny came in wearing the look of a smitten lover. He walked in with a grin so big on his face," Kingston said. "It was like a sucker punch glow."

In 1994 that smitten lover convinced that independent woman that his intentions were honorable and the love struck couple married at the historic Elliston Winery in Sunol, California.  An oasis in the middle of Alameda County's paved progress, the Elliston Winery location seemed an omen for the future of the couple who had found true love the second time around.

Pamela Vitale move to a mountain top in Lafayette, California to live with Daniel happily in a trailer as their dream home began to rise behind them.  The shadow of the 7,000 square foot Italian villa began to over shadow their trailer home but never their love.  Pamela stopped working at Ascential Software and devoted her time to her husband and his law firm and his clients.  She studied everything she could get her hands on about Italian architecture.  The love of wines and grapes were a shared passion and the two hoped to create a winery they called Lamorinda Winery, in a fictitious business statement they filed on August 1, 2003.

The couple also shared a passion for helping others caught up in the quagmire of America's justice system.  Sometimes Horowitz worked for the minimum lawyer's wage paid by California counties for their Alternative Panel Attorneys and he shared it with other counsel such as his law partner Ivan Golde.  Daniel Horowitz welcomed the assistance of his intelligent wife.

In late August 2005 Horowitz took on the case of Susan Polk, a 47-year-old woman who was accused of killing her 70-year- old psychologist husband Felix Polk .  Forced into a corner by a series of attorneys who wanted Susan to alternately plead to manslaughter, battered woman's syndrome and/or insanity, Susan Polk had chosen to represent herself.  She stated that no one could speak for her because she was innocent having only defended herself against a violent, raging husband who had attacked her.  With national media attention already focused on the Susan Polk case, street fighter Daniel Horowitz and his intense law partner Ivan Golde stepped into the fray.

Within days a series of detailed motions were generated from the Horowitz/Golde team challenging everything from the Miranda rights allegedly not accorded to Susan Polk to motions challenging the illegal access of confidential computer data by law enforcement in Contra Costa County.

In a Youngblood/Trombetta Supplemental Declaration filed on September 19, 2005 Daniel Horowitz said on Page 2, Paragraph 5:

My wife was an executive for various leading edge software companies and, as the "spouse", I attended numerous high-tech seminars and meetings and interfaced extensively with software engineers.  I "worked" at various high-tech trade shows in her company booths and as a team member scouting other software competition and customers.

Horowitz continued giving credit to his wife for expanding his world by saying, "As part of this "being the spouse" process, I met with CEO's of numerous major software companies, Chief Technology Officers, and representatives of governments of various countries."

Without exception those who were close to the Horowitz's and those who knew them best, said they knew that they were a couple who luckily had finally found their soul mates.

Then, on Saturday, October 15, 2005 Daniel Horowitz came home to his wife at their trailer home on the mountain top and found the love of his life beaten to death.

He had premonitions something was terribly wrong because Pamela and Daniel had seldom let a day go by without speaking together on the phone.  His calls to his wife had gone unanswered and he was worried.  When he saw her car parked just down the hill from their mobile home, his heart dropped.  Feeling as though he must believe it was just another day, he opened the trunk of his car and removed his lap top computer and entered his home of twenty years.

There he found his wife, the love of his life, his soul mate, beaten to death in their home.  Daniel Horowitz's life, as he valued it, had ended. What remained and how he salvages it is yet to be seen.

by Virginia McCullough © October 24, 2005


by Virginia McCullough

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by Virginia McCullough