In 2011, a man walked into a Seal Beach hair salon and took eight people’s lives. The massacre made headline news, and the criminal case that followed put the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCDS) into the national spotlight for its practices.
Some of our readers may remember we covered the trial of Scott Evan Dekraai in previous posts. The horrific murder deserved our attention on its own, but what it revealed about a longstanding practice of collecting evidence was a cause for pause as well.
Scott Dekraai was sentenced to eight life sentences for the mass murder at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach. The jury that found him guilty heard evidence from a jailhouse informant named Fernando Perez, who claimed Dekraai professed his guilt. What the panel of jurors didn’t know at the time was the informant’s history. Perez, it turns out, was a veteran government informant.
The Dekraai trial and conviction were the impetus for the so-called “snitch scandal.” The defendant’s attorney alleged that OCDS was improperly using jailhouse informants, but he was found guilty regardless. The allegation led to a massive investigation, which revealed a long history of misusing informants, withholding evidence, and misappropriation of funds among the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and OCDS.
New Report Reveals Prosecutors Committed Malpractice
The snitch scandal resulted in many retrials and reduced sentences in homicide cases. Now, a new report shows that prosecutors in the Dekraai case “made a deliberate choice not to find out the criminal and informant history of Fernando Perez,” according to The Los Angeles Times. The report showed that prosecutors ignored evidence that Perez was a longtime jailhouse informant for various law enforcement agencies going back to 1999.
“These apparent acts of deliberate negligence have had devastating consequences to the victim’s families, the Orange County criminal justice system and its law enforcement agencies,” the report states. “During the first six months of the Dekraai case … the prosecution team repeatedly ignored clear and compelling evidence that Perez was a veteran federal confidential informant.”
The report called for “severe disciplinary” action against the prosecutors in the Dekraai case. However, the resignation of former Assistant Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner and Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Simmons last year protects them from facing repercussions for their actions.
Orange County Defense Attorney
Ronald G. Brower, attorney at law, can help you or a loved one with criminal legal matters. Please contact our office today to learn how attorney Brower can advocate for your family and bring about a favorable outcome.