Prosecutors gone wild refers to the epidemic of unethical prosecutors engaging in lying and other misconduct to convict defendants at any cost. We recently discussed a prosecutor who lied under oath in a murder case and escaped any consequences, as well as a prosecutor who falsified a transcript by inserting a fabricated confession. Now we have yet another example of widespread misconduct involving the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Defendant Scott Dekraai, who was charged with killing 8 people, filed a motion seeking to bar the death penalty because of “outrageous government conduct” as well as a motion requesting that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office be recused from the case due to a conflict of interest that would make a fair trial unlikely. At the heart of the motions was the fact that two Orange County Sheriff’s deputies lied and withheld information about records relating to jailhouse informants, and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office failed to disclose the existence of these records for over two years. This is not an isolated incident either. Earlier in the case, the “court heard many weeks of testimony which established that law enforcement had engaged in illegal activity in other cases…”
The court went on to find that “a wealth of potentially relevant discovery material–an entire computerized data base built and maintained by the Orange County Sheriff over the course of many years which is a repository for information related directly to the very issues that this court was examining as a result of the defendant’s motion–remained secret, despite numerous specific discovery orders issued by this court, until long after the initial evidentiary hearing in this case was concluded and rulings were made.”
And here we get to probably the most troubling part with prosecutors gone wild – NO CONSEQUENCES!!! The court denied the defendant’s request to bar the death penalty, and instead ordered that no information gathered from jailhouse snitches could be used in the penalty trial. Not much of a sanction in a case in which the defendant had already plead guilty to the crimes alleged. The court also ordered the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to recuse itself not as a punishment, but to “insure that any future trial is fair.”
Despite finding that when the Orange County District Attorney’s office “presented false and/or intentionally misleading testimony during this defendant’s own motions the defendant’s due process rights were violated to his personal detriment,” these lying state actors – these prosecutors gone wild – face nothing more severe than having to move on to a different case. How can anyone realistically expect these conniving state actors to behave ethically when there is no incentive to do so? Clearly these prosecutors and law enforcement officers have no internal ethical compass, and the judicial system is unwilling to provide an external ethical compass.
You can read the opinion discussed above here.