SANTA ANA (AP) — Prosecutors said in a court hearing Tuesday that they will no longer use secretly recorded statements to a jailhouse informant from a man charged with killing eight people in a 2011 rampage at a Southern California hair salon.
Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy conceded a defense motion alleging Scott Dekraai’s statements, which prosecutors had characterized as bragging about the killings, were recorded in violation of his constitutional right to an attorney.
Assistant public defender Scott Sanders said in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday night that the concession after 2 ½ years of denying wrongdoing and accusing the defense of frivolous motions and delays was “a pretty stunning series of events.”
Gundy didn’t explain the reasoning behind the move during court, and he declined to comment afterward, according to the Orange County Register.
The statements, made by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department during hundreds of hours of covertly recorded conversations between Dekraai and informant Fernando Perez, had been expected to be a key part of prosecutors’ push for the death penalty.
Sanders alleged that prosecutors used informants to improperly interrogate suspects in Dekraai’s and many other cases, prompting Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals to hold unusual special hearings into the procedures of the Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney.
Jailhouse informants can offer up information to authorities, but they are not allowed to actively question suspects who have lawyers or who have requested legal representation.
Perez, a former gang member, testified that the authorities who oversaw his informant activities in the jail told him not to actively question inmates. But Perez said authorities told him that if inmates confessed to him, he could write down what they said.
“People like to brag about their cases,” Perez testified.
Sanders was seeking to have the death penalty thrown out in the case and to have the district attorney’s office recuse itself, a move he says he’ll still pursue, but it was not immediately clear what effect the prosecutors’ concession would have on the requests.
Dekraai is charged with killing his ex-wife and seven others at a Seal Beach salon. His oft-delayed trial is scheduled to start June 9.
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