OC officials violated constitutional rights in jailhouse informant scandal, DOJ concludes

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Friday, October 14, 2022
OC officials violated rights in jailhouse informant scandal, DOJ says
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The Department of Justice concluded that Orange County officials operated a custodial informant program that systematically violated criminal defendants' Sixth and 14th Amendment rights.

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (KABC) -- Orange County's assistant public defender, Scott Sanders, brought the jailhouse informant scandal to the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice. Since 2014, the DOJ has been investigating the scandal, and it has finally come to an end after an eight year investigation.

The Department of Justice concluded that the Orange County District Attorney's Office and Orange County Sheriff's Department operated a custodial informant program that systematically violated criminal defendants' Sixth Amendment right to counsel and 14th Amendment right to due process of law.

Sanders says the 14th Amendment violations were about not disclosing to defense attorneys what the jailhouse informant was told by the charged defendant.

According to Sanders, the violation was a defendant's right to have a lawyer present when talking about their case.

"You cannot have a law enforcement mole essentially question a defendant about his case. What they did is say he wasn't working for us. He just happened to be there when a talkative defendant decided to open up about the crime he was charged with, and that's how they did it again and again," Sanders said.

Sanders defended Scott DeKraai, who confessed to killing eight people in a Seal Beach beauty salon 11 years ago. A jailhouse informant got him to talk about his case. It's one of the cases that led to this investigation.

Sanders says the Department of Justice is asking the Orange County DA's office and sheriff's department to create standards on how they use informants and make sure to turn over evidence when they're supposed to.

"It's pretty basic stuff, and the truth is you don't really need this guidance. Most of it is long-standing rules in turning over evidence, but they're saying we want more clear-cut protocols on how you do these things," Sanders said.

Sanders also mentioned that because of this scandal, 21 cases have been retried, and of those cases some have had their sentences reduced.