OC Sheriff Hutchens testifies about alleged jailhouse snitch program

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Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens gave long-awaited testimony on Wednesday about whether the county jail system has an established, and potentially illegal, jailhouse informant program. (KABC)

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens gave long-awaited testimony on Wednesday about whether the county jail system has an established, and potentially illegal, jailhouse informant program.

The testimony came in relation to the trial of Scott Dekraai, who has pleaded guilty to the 2011 mass shooting in a Seal Beach salon that killed eight people and wounded one.

Dekraai's public defender, Scott Sanders, is trying to get the death penalty taken off the table, based on the argument that the county used an illegal jail snitch program.

At question is whether the Sheriff's Department intentionally and illegally used jailhouse informants to elicit damaging information from inmates who have been charged and have the constitutional right to an attorney.

Another question is whether the agency failed to turn over evidence related to informants that might help the defendant's case.

At the heart of Wednesday's questioning was an exclusive interview Hutchens gave to Eyewitness News in August 2015, in which she denied there was an informant program.

"We don't have our folks working informants," Hutchens said in that interview with Marc Brown. "That's not to say the jail deputies don't have an inmate coming up to them claiming they have some sort of information. But they will typically pass that on to the jurisdiction where that belongs."

Last month, an Orange County grand jury found that claims of the department having an organized jail snitch program are a "myth."

Ultimately the hearings will seek to determine whether any potential misconduct was intentional or a mistake, and whether it was egregious enough to take the death penalty off the table for Dekraai.

Related Topics:
newsorange county sheriff's departmentsheriffjailSanta AnaOrange County
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