Orange County DA's Office (Along With 250 Prosecutors) Kicked Off Murder Case For 'Widespread Corruption'

from the your-rights-end-where-our-misconduct-begins dept

Nothing says you’ve deeply screwed up like having you and every single one of your 250 prosecutors disqualified from a case.

In a stinging rebuke, a criminal court judge removed the Orange County district attorney’s office from one of its highest-profile murder cases, saying prosecutors had violated mass shooter Scott Dekraai’s rights by repeatedly failing to turn over important evidence.

“Certain aspects of the district attorney’s performance in this case might be described as a comedy of errors but for the fact that it has been so sadly deficient,” Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals wrote in his ruling. “There is nothing funny about that.”

An open-and-shut case involving the murder of eight people now is anything but. According to information pried loose by the public defenders assigned to Scott Dekraai’s defense, prosecutors have partnered with law enforcement to place informants near charged suspects being held while awaiting trial in order to elicit confessions or admissions of other criminal activity, in exchange for pay, better treatment, etc.

The booting of the Orange County DA’s office follows a 500+ page filing by the public defenders, more than half of which details similar jailhouse operations and a multitude of Brady violations committed by the same office over the past several years. This previously-withheld information — much of it coming from a jailhouse computer log known as TRED — is dismantling other “successful” prosecutions. Prosecutors have hid the existence of this database, as well as its contents, from defense teams and judges for most of 25 years.

Now, it’s all falling apart. The defense team that uncovered this misconduct aren’t hoping to get their client’s case thrown out. But they are seeking to take the death penalty off the table. (The judge has not done so, despite his disqualifying the DA’s office.) Dekraai killed eight people in broad daylight in front of witnesses, so there was never any doubt he committed the crimes he’s charged with. But what happened behind bars while he awaited trial was illegal. The real point of this effort is to level the playing field going forward. These defense lawyers aren’t looking to score a “win,” per se, but rather seeking to have a fighting chance when defending the accused.

Take a long look at what’s been done here. A defense team — all public defenders — spent a year going through 60,000 pages of documents. Some lawyers, perhaps far too many, would have let a hopeless case like Dekraai’s run its course and put more effort into those deemed a bit more “winnable.” But this team didn’t, and now the ugliness of Orange County law enforcement is on full display.

On the other end, there have been no announcements of pending investigations or punishments for those involved in this wrongdoing. No prosecutor, jailer or sheriff’s department officers have faced anything more than potential embarrassment for these deeds. The sheriff’s office has “admitted” that “mistakes were made. The prosecutors’ office hasn’t expressed an interest in punishing the jailers who worked with law enforcement to pay jailhouse snitches to illegally record conversations with accused suspects. But the DA’s office feels someone should pay the price for the office’s misconduct — and that person should be the judge who kicked it to the curb.

Since February 2014, the district attorney’s office has asked to disqualify [Judge] Goethals — a former homicide prosecutor and defense attorney — in 57 cases, according to court records.

In 2011, records show, prosecutors made disqualification requests against Goethals just three times. In 2012, zero times. In 2013, only twice.

The office doesn’t want to take its prosecutions to a forum where its integrity will be (rightly) questioned. So, it’s just going to route around Goethals and hope that other judges haven’t been following recent developments. In the meantime, it’s going to be putting more man-hours on cases it thought it had already closed — even the “easy wins” that just weren’t “easy” enough. The ingrained behavior of the prosecution side is costing it convictions it could have secured simply by playing by the rules. But when you’re used to cheating, you do it even when you don’t have to.

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Comments on “Orange County DA's Office (Along With 250 Prosecutors) Kicked Off Murder Case For 'Widespread Corruption'”

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Personanongrata says:


Orange County DA’s Office (Along With 250 Prosecutors) Kicked Off Murder Case For ‘Widespread Corruption’

What a disgrace.

Whose been held accountable?

No one. Although the citizens of Orange County, California are most assuredly being held hostage by a system that has thrown them overboard decades ago (thanks to the ghost of George Carlin).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Corrupt cop to English translation

The sheriff’s office has “admitted” that “mistakes were made.

Translation: “We got caught bending and even outright breaking the law, that wasn’t supposed to happen.”

The ‘mistakes’ from their perspective aren’t what they did, so much as the fact that they got caught, as evidenced by the complete and utter disinterest in punishing those who made the ‘mistakes’.

On a separate note, this is pretty much exactly the kind of stuff you could expect when, as a previous commentor a while back noted, the focus of ‘law enforcement’ shifts to punishing the guilty rather than protecting the innocent.

If you think that your job is to punish the ‘guilty’, then clearly laws and rules meant to protect innocent people shouldn’t apply, because they’re getting in the way of your job, and who cares anyway, the ones you’re going after are guilty after all, why should they get the protections meant for innocent people?

Clearly they believe that their job is to secure convictions and punish the ‘guilty’, so as disgusting as it is, it’s hardly a surprise that they would act in this manner. Even more so, with no penalties, even when caught, why wouldn’t they?

A travesty of justice, but not a surprising one sad to say.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: The proper response to perversion of justice...

Is to free everyone convicted by such a system.

Don’t like having psycho-killers walking free in your neighborhood? Next time devise a justice system that respects the rights of suspects.

The good news is many of those freed were innocent of wrongdoing. The bad news is those who were guilty all along still walked free all this time.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The proper response to perversion of justice...

This. When someone is wrongfully convicted, not only do you have an innocent person being punished for something they didn’t do, you also have all the people who actually did commit crimes going free.

After all, once police have their main suspect they stop looking for new ones. Once someone is convicted of a crime, nobody keeps looking for who did it.

David says:

Re: Re:

Sad part, is that it immediately creates reasonable doubt. So, it’s quite possible a lot of appeals will go free (many who possibly are legitimately innocent). So maybe it’s not quite as sad as it initially sounds.

After all, even if you think OJ killed his ex, the DA and police screwups created doubt – and the correct verdict was rendered.

Sunhawk says:

“Some lawyers, perhaps far too many, would have let a hopeless case like Dekraai’s run its course and put more effort into those deemed a bit more “winnable.” But this team didn’t”

A sincere salute to the public defenders for a stand on important principles. The rights of me and thee in the criminal justice system apply to even the most obviously guilty defendant.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Which Orange County?

I finally got to the documents and saw it was OC, CA. But it’s not mentioned anywhere in or about the article; I was beginning to think I was going to have to Google some people’s names to find out if it was CA, NY, NC, NJ, or some other OC I hadn’t heard of.

There is more than one, you know.

CA seemed most likely, but still…

Anon says:

Problems are obvious

The reason jailhouse “informants” area problem is obvious. First, like participants turned states witness, they have a vested interest in producing damning evidence against someone else. Usually, the informant is trading the information for a benefit, such as a lesser sentence. Also, there are no recordings – so no proof of what was said. Finally, people say things that can be misinterpreted.

Consider the murder of 8-year-old Christine Jessop north of Toronto over 20 years ago. (Case chronicled in “Redrum the Innocent”. Police fixated on a neighbour, Paul Morin, who was “weird” to the exclusion of all other suspects. They coerced a more favourable time-line from the parents to “prove” the suspect could have been there. Then, they placed an undercover cop in the neighbour cell to record the conversation. (Apparently, not illegal in Canada) During a long and rambling conversation, the guy said some weird things – the phrase “Redrum the innocent” was mentioned. The police wire cleverly (or not) was garbled and unintelligible. A nerdy twenty-something suddenly finding himself arrested for murder is probably going to be in shock. The police said he hinted he had committed the murder, displayed a “guilty” misdemeanour. Then, to top it off, a jailhouse informant claimed Morin had confessed!

Three times he was tried, three times the appeal court threw out the result and demanded a new trial. Finally the Crown gave up trying, and the holes in their case were widely dissected in books and newspaper. A number of alternative suspects were mentioned and the fact the police had ignored them to concentrate on Paul Morin. And finally, they had used the incredibly fanciful “matching hair and fibre” testimony, and new DNA technology proved this match incorrect.

TL:DR – Jailhouse informants lie, so needing their testimony is simply proof the cops have no good evidence.

Anonymous Coward says:

What is truly sad about this, is that so far this has received less media attention than some idiots playing a game on tv who use a ball that’s not fully pressurized according to some silly rulebook.

And looking at CNN’s home page, oh there’s a story about an NFL player retiring at 25, but not this…

And on the Fox News home page, I get the impression it’s perfectly ok to touch your sisters when they are sleeping, if you are in puberty… but nothing about the Orange County DA’s office.

And at MSNBC bathrooms become battlegrounds. Need I say more.

Brubaker says:

orange curtain corrupted

Secrecy is a tool of corruption.. The prosecution had a duty and taxpayer funded pay for honest services and those public employees involved in the coverup need to pay that money back and face charges.
There’s also come to light the case fixing clerk..anyone else besides the clerk in the scheme..?
There’s more to case fixing behind that orange curtain..fixing altering a case record isn’t just a clerk misconduct crime.

Brubaker says:

independent commission

There needs to be a full time local independent commission for the courts.
One sided justice has to stop.
The scales of justice are dirty and they need to be cleaned UP.
A person needs a local independent court commission to bypass obstruction, cover up and fix.
Correcting court record from case fix cannot be one sided justice only allowed because it benefits prosecutors/state.
Correcting court record must be allowed from case fix when it DOESN’T benefit them.

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