Appellate Court upholds recusal of entire Orange County DA office

“A California appeals court issued a sharply worded rebuke to the state Attorney General’s office yesterday in a high-profile case, the Orange County Register reported.
The ruling came in the high-profile murder trial of Scott Dekraai, who in 2011 shot up the hair salon where his former wife was working, killing eight people and injuring one. His public defender, Scott Sanders, uncovered evidence that sheriff’s deputies were using jailhouse informants to solicit incriminating statements from high-profile defendants, and that prosecutors failed to disclose the practice. If true, both would violate defendants’ civil rights. After six months of evidentiary hearings, trial judge Thomas Goethals recused all the prosecutors in Orange County and gave the case to the state Attorney General’s office, which appealed the order.
In its ruling Tuesday upholding the trial judge’s decision in People v. Dekraai (PDF), California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Three, chastised the AG’s office for the appeal, using italic script to call part of its arguments “nonsense.””

“During discovery in Dekraai’s case, Sanders realized that the same jailhouse informant, supposedly a volunteer who expected nothing in return, was also informing on another high-profile client, Daniel Wozniak. Sanders began looking into the use of informants in Orange County and discovered evidence showing that illegal use of jailhouse informants may go back decades in Orange County. This would have been despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1964 ruling in Massiah v. United States, which expressly forbids the practice. Prosecutors had not turned over any of it in discovery and indeed resisted related discovery requests, Sanders said, which would violate their obligations under 1963’s Brady v. Maryland.”

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