Appeal court upholds misconduct ruling in Orange County jailhouse snitch scandal

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- The California Court of Appeal upheld a historic ruling, blasting the Orange County District Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department for misconduct.

The district attorney's office kicked off the case of Seal Beach mass murderer Scott Dekraai in 2015 before his penalty trial.

Dekraai's defense attorney, Scott Sanders, brought to light what became known as the jailhouse snitch scandal.

"The entire district attorney's office is removed from a case for not disclosing evidence and not forcing their prosecution partners to disclose evidence" Sanders stated.

Sanders alleged a conspiracy involving prosecutors and deputies after discovering a jailhouse informant gathered evidence against Dekraai after he already had an attorney, which was a violation of the law.

He also discovered the sheriff's department had been secretly tracking the movement of jail inmates and informants for decades.

The judge found the sheriff's deputies testifying in Dekraai's case lied or withheld information about a secret database.

The appeals court ruling strongly criticized the DA's office, saying there is substantial evidence to support the judge's decision to remove the DA's office from the case.

"The OCDAs loyalty to the OCSD conflicted with its duty to the rule of law and its duty to fairly prosecute the case against Dekraai," a statement from the California Court of Appeal read.

The appeals court notes the judge ordered authorities to hand over informant-related documents to the defense in 2013, however, a few months ago another 1,100 pages from a secret sheriff's department database suddenly surfaced after repeated court orders.

"The OCDA continues to fail to ensure the OCSD, its chief law enforcement partner, will comply with its constitutional and statutory obligations," the statement continued.

The sheriff's department said the decision will not change their ongoing commitment to cooperate with the court.

The ruling came on the same day the Orange County Board of Supervisors agreed to give the grand jury nearly $400,000 to continue looking into the county's use of jailhouse informants.

As for Dekraai, who shot and killed eight people in 2011, the DA's office said he deserves the death penalty but noted it will be up to the state attorney general to decide whether to pursue the death penalty, take it to a jury or appeal the decision.
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