According to a recent report by the Daily Journal, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has decided to amp up oversight of the use of jailhouse informants.
The criminal justice system in Orange County has been under a microscope the past few months. The District Attorney’s Office has come under fire recently for numerous possible legal and ethical violations that have been widely reported in the media.
Orange County District Attorney’s Office Reported Misconduct
The alleged misconduct first surfaced during the ongoing murder trial involving the shootings of Scott Dekraai that happened in 2011. Allegations were made that prosecutors had violated Dekraai’s rights by repeatedly failing to turn over important evidence to his defense attorneys. The allegations were so serious that Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals ruled that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office could no longer handle the case, which is now being handled by the Attorney General’s Office.
“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,” Goethals wrote in his ruling. “There is nothing funny about that.”1
The judge indicated that prosecutors had shown a “chronic failure” to comply with orders to turn over evidence to the defense. Because of their failure, prosecutors had also deprived Dekraai – who pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder – of his right to a fair trial.2
What Will Be Done in Orange County?
Based on the systematic pattern that involved evidence not being turned over and a network of prison snitches that county prosecutors apparently employed to obtain illegal confessions from defendants, a committee has now been created to review the purpose and nature of these informants. The committee includes a retired Orange County judge, a former Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney and an academic with expertise on legal ethics and responsibilities.
The purpose of this commission is to improve the procedures and avoid any future mistakes by using jailhouse informants.
“It’s important to have an objective and expert external committee, with different points of view, to thoroughly review and analyze the issues regarding the use of in-custody informants,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.3
The commission has been looked at as a positive sign by most, including local criminal defense attorneys. However, this commission is not without its doubters. Whether this oversight and review is effective will be determined by the commission’s level of access. Unless the commission has unfettered discretion to review any and all necessary people, documents and files, there can be no guarantee that the misconduct will be corrected. The committee is set to release a county-wide review of the informant policy by the end of this year.
The Critical Importance of Hiring an Experienced Attorney
Our justice system is an adversarial one, and this sometimes leads to prosecutors taking shortcuts because securing a win often takes priority over securing justice. When prosecutors can’t be trusted to operate according to the law in using a jailhouse informant, it takes a seasoned attorney to fight against that kind of serious misconduct.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will comb through every detail of the prosecution’s case and leave no stone unturned. Hiring a criminal lawyer tenacious enough to do that can often mean the difference between going free and spending years in prison.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are facing criminal charges, you need the help of an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience fighting for the rights of criminal defendants. We work tirelessly to help our clients obtain the best possible outcome in their case. Let us help you, too. Contact us today for a free, no obligation phone consultation.
With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Victorville, West Covina, San Diego, Torrance and Sherman Oaks., there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense available near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.