The judge handling the sentencing trial for mass murderer Scott Evans Dekraai said Friday that misuse of jailhouse informants by Orange County prosecutors and Sheriff’s deputies may cause him to consider “the nuclear option,” throwing out the death penalty in the case.
Orange County Sheriff’s deputies were openly and actively encouraged to cultivate jailhouse informants to aid prosecutors and the department covered its tracks as revelations about the program unfolded in court, according to a 72-page motion filed by Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders Thursday.
Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals Friday ordered Sheriff Sandra Hutchens to retain all relevant jail informant records after disclosures that the county Board of Supervisors had at one point approved a policy allowing such records to be destroyed.
Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals said two former DA prosecutors, who are now judges, engaged in “serious misconduct” in a murder case. But he stopped short of barring the entire office as he did in the jailhouse snitch case.
Nearly four years ago, a Superior Court judge requested that the Orange County district attorney’s office turn over a large cache of records having to do with jailhouse snitches. The fallout from that request continues today.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said Friday that Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens is close to contempt of court for how her department has responded to repeated requests for records related to the use of jailhouse informants.
The U.S. Justice Department probe will center on how DA prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies illegally gleaned information from jailhouse informants and violated defendants’ rights by not disclosing that information to their attorneys.
Nearly 250 pages of notes documenting a secret jailhouse informant network run by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were released Monday, providing an unvarnished view of how snitches were utilized in violations of defendants’ rights.