Orange County DA under investigation for serious accusations
Orange County District Attorney Under Investigation for Serious Accusations
January 11, 2016
In 2011, Scott Dekraai murdered eight people in a Seal Beach salon in Orange County, California. Three years later, after confessing to the crimes, he was sent to prison pending his court case. In 2015, a California criminal court judge removed the OC District Attorney’s office from the case, citing numerous violations of Dekraai’s rights while he was in prison.
According to court documents, the OCDA office used prison informants to obtain information on Dekraai in an attempt to secure the harshest possible verdict. The California District Attorney’s office was assigned as prosecution, and the Orange County DA’s office started on a journey that eventually led to federal lawsuits against the office and many of its attorneys.
In the state of California, prosecutors cannot legally utilize informants to gather information on a suspect after that individual has been arrested. However, in 2013 OC public defender Scott Sanders alleged that the DA’s office had been using confidential informants in prison as a regular course of action. In December 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the alleged practice by the OCDA’s office.
The Orange County District Attorney’s office is the largest in the country with approximately 250 attorneys and a huge staff of support personnel. The investigation into their unethical and potentially illegal activities has already lead to the overturning of several key murder convictions. Some legal observers are speculating that the Department of Justice may open investigations into every murder case the Orange County DA has prosecuted since 1986.
Rackauckas and his office have denied any wrongdoing despite mounting evidence against them. This included a secret file that was used to track every informant the Orange County DA had working inside local prisons and which prisoners those informants were talking to.
This speculation has been brewing for years, but the official investigation has only just begun. The Department of Justice has not indicated if the OCDA’s office will be allowed to prosecute cases while it is under investigation or if the DA’s office will be temporarily suspended from murder case prosecutions. In light of prosecutorial misconduct, the court might overturn a criminal case.
Larry Bellomo is an exceptional Orange County lawyer practicing in Bankruptcy and Family Law.