Addicted to Murder: The True Story of Daniel Conahan Jr.
On August 17, 1999, after just 25 minutes of deliberation, Judge William Blackwell found Daniel Conahan Jr. guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and kidnapping. Conahan stood silently as the verdict was read aloud.
Outside the courtroom, Ahlbrand told reporters, "I'm never surprised with a verdict. I'm always disappointed with an adverse verdict. I'm convinced Judge Blackwell began deliberating to some extent throughout the trial, which is what I'd expect a judge to do."
Conahan's other attorney, Paul Sullivan, said it was up to Conahan to choose whether the penalty phase of the trial would go before a jury or if he would let Judge Blackwell decide his fate. Conahan later chose a penalty trial by jury.
On August 24, 1999, pointing to extensive newspaper and television coverage of his murder trial, Conahan asked Judge Blackwell for a change of venue due to intense media coverage of the case. The following month, his request was granted and Judge Blackwell ruled that Conahan's penalty hearing would be postponed and moved to the Collier County Courthouse, approximately 60 miles to the south in Naples, Florida. Conahan's penalty hearing was then set for November 1, 1999.
In mid-October, Conahan argued that lawyers Paul Sullivan and Mark Ahlbrand failed to give him an adequate defense in his murder trial. He said they did not argue that a sheriff's investigator altered witness statements and they did not point out that one of the state's witnesses committed perjury. Nonetheless, Judge Blackwell found that Ahlbrand and Sullivan provided an adequate defense and informed Conahan that if he chose to fire them he was on his own. Conahan, after a brief meeting with his attorneys, informed the judge that he would continue to retain his lawyers.