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.

Filed Under: corruption, murder, orange county, scott dekraai, thomas goethals


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  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 5 Jun 2015 @ 3:09pm

    Owned!

    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).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsL6mKxtOlQ

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 3:13pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 3:19pm

      Re: Corrupt cop to English translation

      The only appropriate resposne to perversion of justice is to jail all those involved and throw away the key.

      To do anything less is both immoral and unethical behavior, and tarnishes those who aim to carry out justice for those wronged.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Personanongrata, 5 Jun 2015 @ 3:33pm

        Re: Re: Corrupt cop to English translation

        Hear, hear!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 3:50pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Bergman (profile), 7 Jun 2015 @ 2:52pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    J.R., 5 Jun 2015 @ 3:16pm

    Sad

    Wish I could title this comment "Incredible Behaviour" or "Shocking Behaviour." It's not even mildly surprising anymore; it rather seems that the various "justice" entities are more interested in convictions than truth or justice.

    That is sad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 3:35pm

    This is a total disaster. Now, there are going to be an unprecedented number of convicted felons filing appeals over this corruption in the D.A.'s office. This is going to create a massive backlog for the District Attorney's office.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 5 Jun 2015 @ 3:53pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        madasahatter (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 5:40pm

        Re: Re:

        Agreed with the strong possibility of reasonable doubt in many cases.

        A comment on the Simpson case; when I heard how the LAPD handle evidence - no proper chain of custody - I could not see how any competent jury would convict him. In fact, if Ito had a pair he would have slammed the DA's and the LAPD.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 4:01pm

    I have to agree. This is going to create a major problem for Orange County, not to mention the victims of those families filing an unprecedented number of lawsuits against the prosecutors office if any of those convicted men and women go free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 4:20pm

    Innocent until proven guilty really has no weight when such a heavy thumb is placed upon the scales of justice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sunhawk, 5 Jun 2015 @ 5:37pm

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 6:01pm

    i've heard it said that we are canada's mexico. this kind of prosecutorial mismanagement stacking the deck is what i expect of mexico.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 6 Jun 2015 @ 1:26am

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      fin, 6 Jun 2015 @ 4:59am

      Re: Which Orange County?

      personally I would prefer it if you used the whole name. who lives in an initial.

      for those of us not in the usa it's even more confusing

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    aerilus, 6 Jun 2015 @ 1:50am

    jail house snitches are a time honored tradition across the nation, I thought they were technically legal thought their testimony has always been suspect. never talk in jail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 6 Jun 2015 @ 5:17am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 6 Jun 2015 @ 5:29am

    Analysis of a Misdirected Prosection

    http://www.nasams.org/forensics/for_lib/Documents/1107540419.8/e4e3b26ec73c1b1285256eb60062a5a4%3FOp enDocument&Highlight%3D0,forensic

    This is an article on Morin's prosecution - jailhouse informants lying (plus bogus "fibres match" testimony) almost sent an innocent man to jail for life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2015 @ 11:14am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wec, 8 Jun 2015 @ 9:32am

    As to 'the focus of 'law enforcement' shifts to punishing the guilty ', it should read 'the focus of 'law enforcement' shifts to punishing the suspected'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Jun 2015 @ 10:06am

    The focus of law enforcement...

    ...I thought was now to fill up prisons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ginger, 14 Jul 2015 @ 7:28pm

    oc juducial corruption

    their only goal is to CONVICT.. at all and any cost!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brubaker, 9 Sep 2015 @ 7:35pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brubaker, 16 Sep 2015 @ 8:18pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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