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D.A. ran illegal snitch operation in O.C. jail, attorneys say

Defense attorneys seek to dismiss death penalty allegation against Scott Dekraai, accused of killing eight people, because prosecutors illegally used a jailhouse informant operation.

February 27, 2014|By Paloma Esquivel
  • Shooting suspect Scott Dekraai makes his first appearance in Orange County Superior Court for the shooting rampage at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach.
Shooting suspect Scott Dekraai makes his first appearance… (Mark Boster / Los…)

Attorneys for the man charged with killing eight people in a Seal Beach salon three years ago have accused Orange County prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies of running an unconstitutional jailhouse informant operation that ensnared their client and other inmates.

Scott Dekraai’s public defenders say that the district attorney’s office oversaw an “unchecked and lawless custodial informant program” which resulted in systemic constitutional violations and kept defense attorneys in the dark about the so-called jailhouse snitches, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Dekraai faces the death penalty for allegedly walking into Salon Meritage on Oct. 12, 2011 and opening fire, killing his ex-wife and seven others in the county’s deadliest shooting.

Deputy public defenders Scott Sanders, Frank Ospino and Lisa Kopelman outlined the allegations in a 505-page motion filed earlier this month, charging that the prosecution cannot be trusted to put on a fair trial.

The attorneys are asking the court to dismiss the death penalty allegation against Dekraai and bar the district attorney’s office from prosecuting the case.

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Assistant Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner called the allegations “scurrilous and unfounded” and said he would respond to the specifics in court.

“It is filled with untruths,” he said.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled Friday in Orange County Superior Court.

Families of the salon victims have grown impatient with constant delays in the trial, but Sanders said that much of the delay stems from his office’s efforts to investigate the use of jailhouse informants. The motion is based on an examination of thousands of pages of records and hundreds of hours of recordings which the court had ordered turned over to the defense last year.

Evidence of Dekraai’s guilt is overwhelming: He was arrested as he drove from the scene of the midday shooting and later confessed to investigators. The main issue in the case has been whether he should be sentenced to die for the crime.

Days after Dekraai was arrested and taken to the Central Jail Complex in Santa Ana, he was placed next to a prisoner referred to in court documents as Inmate F. A few days later, Inmate F told deputies that Dekraai had been talking about the shootings and gave him detailed descriptions of the crime, according to court documents.

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