By PAUL ANDERSON
City News Service
Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals unsealed a 505-page motion made by defense attorneys for accused mass killer Scott Evans Dekraai in an effort to get the death penalty off the table.
To that end, Dekraai’s lawyers
allege prosecutorial misconduct and the improper use of jailhouse informants.
At issue, according to Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, is how the Orange County Sheriff's Department is handling a jailhouse informant -- named in court papers as “Inmate F.” Sanders alleges the inmate is being improperly put into isolation with other inmates to not arouse suspicion so he can strike up a conversation and collect incriminating statements for investigators.
Sanders is alleging constitutional violations of his client’s rights while in custody. He has said he is willing to have Dekraai plead guilty to spare him the death penalty and receive life in prison without the possibility of parole.
But prosecutors are aiming for death row.
“It's still our position that there is a death penalty in California and because of that if there is a case deserving of the death penalty it's this one,” said Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner.
“Anything less would really trivialize'' what Dekraai allegedly did, Wagner said.
Wagner told reporters after this afternoon's hearing that the 505-page motion is “filled with untruths” and is “assuming the worst about us. We're confident it will be shown to be inaccurate.”
Prosecutors only want to use statements Dekraai allegedly made to a fellow inmate, which was being recorded on a listening device, in the penalty phase of his trial, Wagner said.
“A listening device was placed in defendant's jail cell and captured statements made by the defendant in which in detail he relived the crime and bragged about it,” Wagner said. “The statements are the most candid and revealing by the defendant.”
In the first week of March, it is expected a hearing on the government misconduct allegations will be held that could last several days and involve Sanders questioning prosecutors.
Sanders told Goethals he anticipates filing a motion Tuesday to have the Orange County District Attorney's Office removed from the case and have the state Attorney General take over the prosecution.
The allegations of misconduct also apply to several cases involving a federal and state crackdown on violence in Orange County jails, nicknamed Operation Black Flag and Operation Smokin' Aces. Defense attorneys allege that Inmate F was being spared a third strike, guaranteeing life in prison, in exchange for snitching on inmates in settings that violate his cellmate's constitutional rights.
The defense attorneys also suspect Inmate F was offering contradictory testimony in connected gang cases to best suit the prosecution, and that some prosecutors would only hand over part of the informant's notes and not all of them as required.
Dekraai, 44, is accused of killing eight people in the Oct. 12, 2011, massacre at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach.