The Orange County (CA) District Attorney's office remains in the news. It's not often an entire prosecutors' office gets booted off a high-profile murder case, but that's what happens when misconduct occurs on a massive scale. An open-and-shut murder case with eight victims is now the DA's perpetual nightmare. Judge Thomas Goethals kicked the agency to the curb after uncovering repeated discovery violations committed by prosecutors.
But the problems go back further than this case. The office has hidden the existence of a law enforcement database from defense lawyers (and judges) for a quarter century -- a database holding all sorts of information about jailhouse snitches that may have made the difference in a number of cases.
A quarter-century of obfuscation followed by outright lying on the stand by prosecution witnesses is something you'd think would be addressed by a swift housecleaning. You'd be wrong. So far, there have been no announcements from the DA about pending investigations -- either into its own misconduct, or the repeated abuses of the jail's snitch program run by the local sheriff's office.
Add to that yet another revelation from the current criminal case: the sheriff's office shredded documents ahead of an announced investigation by the DOJ.
Sheriff's deputies doctored and shredded records after the announced launch of a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) probe eight years ago into suspected police corruption, according to the latest courthouse bombshell filed March 30 in what is known nationally as the Orange County Jailhouse Informant Scandal.
Revealed in a brief filed by Scott Sanders, the assistant public defender in People v. Scott Dekraai, a pending death penalty case marred by astonishing law enforcement misconduct, Deputy Michael Carrillo wrote an entry never intended for public consumption: "ADUJSTED (sic) THE DISCIPLINARY ISOLATION LOGS FOR THE DOJ TO MATCH THE LOGS FOR AD-SEG AND PC LOGS, PER SGT JOHNSON."
Those in charge of the sheriff's snitch program have been asked to testify in response to perjury allegations. They have chosen not to, with each sheriff's office witness called pleading the Fifth. This chain of events has led to the most jaw-dropping law enforcement statement I have ever read, and that includes arguments made in support of setting toddlers on fire with carelessly-tossed flashbang grenades.
Sheriff Sandra Hutchens claims the veteran officers were unaware they were required to testify honestly during prior court appearances for the death penalty case marred by astonishing degrees of government cheating.
Officers, especially veteran ones, are aware they are required to testify honestly. This is why they're sworn in before testimony. There's a promise made at that point. Not testifying honestly is called "perjury," as the officers are surely aware. High school students taking civics classes are aware of this. No one's really unclear on the whole "tell the truth in court" thing.
This is R. Scott Moxley's paraphrasing of what was actually asserted by the sheriff. The paraphrasing strips the original quote of its defensive obfuscation, but the real quote is no less damning, if not as direct. (Original quote obtained from Moxley.)
[T]he OC sheriff was asked why a veteran deputy had lied about the existence of incriminating agency TRED records after swearing in open court he would tell the "whole truth" and she replied, "I believe he was unclear about what he could or couldn't say about that system."
I'm not sure what the deputy thought was unclear, other than it seemed wiser for him to lie to the court than reveal the database the sheriff's office had kept hidden from defendants for years. If there was a question about what could be said in open court, the sheriff's witnesses could have asked to discuss the specifics in camera and allow the judge to decided whether it could be discussed publicly. Denying the existence of records that exist is still perjury, no matter how the sheriff wants to spin it.
Hutchens and every "veteran officer" she's referring to should be fired immediately. Anyone who honestly believes testifying in court is subject to discretion calls by the sheriff's office about what can and can't be discussed needs to replaced with those who understands and respects the oaths they take. If they're actually stupid enough to believe being a law enforcement officer makes truth-telling under oath optional, they should be forced to tattoo "THIS END UP" on their foreheads to prevent them from making unfortunate decisions about which method of bipedal ambulation works most efficiently and have "DON'T LIE IN COURT" notes safety-pinned to their chests if they're going to be within 1000 feet of any US courthouse.