Something is Rotten in the Orange County D.A.'s Office

By William Peacock, Esq. on February 27, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Brady violations. Massiah mishaps. Perjury. And snitches. Nobody likes snitches.

Except the Orange County District Attorney's Office. Actually, we'd venture a guess that all D.A.'s offices like snitches, since they make prosecutors' jobs easier. But the utility of a snitch is limited by Massiah, which prohibits the government from eliciting incriminating statements from a defendant after the right to counsel attaches.

And if the Orange County Public Defender's Office's motions are to be believed, that's exactly what the D.A's office was doing -- sending snitches to buddy-up to post-arraignment defendants who were in custody awaiting trial.

Scott Dekraai: Seal Beach Mass Murderer

For those of us living in California in 2011, Scott Dekraai's story will be unfortunately familiar. He walked into a hair salon and shot his estranged wife, then turned the gun on eight others. Only one victim survived. According to his attorneys' motion, he has already provided a full confession. The 505-page motion is asking the judge to take the death penalty off of the table due to the prosecutors' alleged misconduct. The motion states:

"The Court-ordered discovery reveals investigative and discovery practices by the Dekraai prosecution team that are rooted in deception and concealment; an unchecked and lawless custodial informant program overseen by the OCDA; and a string of prosecutions which confirm a culture that confuses winning with justice--prosecutions marked by repeated and stunning Brady violations, suborned perjury, and a myriad of other misconduct." (link added)

Inmate F

Dekraai found himself in a cell next to a friendly fellow referred to as "Inmate F." This inmate befriended Dekraai and asked him for details about his crime, mental state, etc. He then, based on his conscience, came forward:

"It appeared that the prosecution had been the recipient of extraordinarily good luck. The inmate housed closest to Dekraai was a good listener, a great note taker, and someone so selfless that he wanted to assist the OCDA and local law enforcement without wishing for anything in return. OCDA Investigator Erickson's subsequently written report confirmed this picture of Inmate F. The prosecution promised nothing in return for his assistance, which was perfect for Inmate F. because he wanted nothing."

One of Dekraai's public defenders, Scott Sanders, stumbled upon Inmate F by happenstance, as he was also an informant in another case.

A discovery battle ensued, which dug up Inmate F's lengthy history, beginning with a police officer's note: "WAS TERMINATED AS A C.I. -- DO NOT USE AS A C.I." He is also reportedly a leader in the Mexican Mafia gang, has multiple third-strike convictions awaiting sentencing, and has allegedly conspired to kill fellow inmates.

And that whole "promised nothing in return for his assistance" bit? The motion quotes a hidden internal D.A. memo, sent to the prosecutor overseeing Inmate F's pending cases, noting that he was an informant in the Dekraai case and that "this memorandum is being directed to you for your consideration and information only."

Wink. Nod. Benefit? Either way, it almost certainly should've been Brady material.

Drop in the Bucket of Misconduct?

Note, by the way, that this is only through page 20. The rest of the memorandum dives into Inmate F's entire history as an informant, recorded conversations between the defendant and the informant, the hidden memo, concealment of Massiah and Brady violations, the discovery battle, alleged unlawful efforts to access Dekraai's psychological records, and other information on other custodial informants that were part of the same program.

There's also a 91-page motion to recuse the entire OCDA's office, which we haven't touched yet.

A hearing on the death penalty motion begins tomorrow, and is expected to take ten days. The recusal motion is set for March 7.

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