SANTA ANA ( — A judge has removed the Orange County District Attorney’s Office from the case of convicted mass killer Scott Dekraai, saying the use of jailhouse informants violated his due process rights.

Judge Thomas M. Goethal on Thursday stayed the ruling until March 20 to give the district attorney a chance to appeal. If they lose their appeal, the state Attorney General’s Office would take over, though they’ve indicated they’re not in favor of the D.A.’s removal.

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Scott Dekraai pleaded guilty to killing his ex-wife and seven others in a 2011 shooting rampage at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach. It was the worst mass killing in Orange County’s history.

The case is currently headed toward the penalty phase in which the death penalty is a possibility.

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Last year, Dekraai’s lawyer Scott Sanders accused prosecutors of trying to cover up a jailhouse informant program that had trained snitches to sidle up to high-profile defendants to elicit information in violation of their constitutional rights.

Thursday’s ruling may set a precedent for the county’s systematic use of jailhouse informants, often known to be unreliable and long decried by defense attorneys. Legal experts say it could prompt other case reviews and may lead defense lawyers in Orange County to raise similar claims.

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