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DOJ Says Orange County's Use Of Jail Informants Violated Rights

The U.S. Justice Department found that the systematic use of informants in the Orange County, Ca., jail system violated the civil rights of the inmates. The Justice Department said Thursday that an investigation of the use of informants from 2007 to 2016 found reasonable cause to believe that the Orange County District Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department violated the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and Fourteenth Amendmen, right to due process, in their jails, Courthouse News Service reports. The controversial use of informants in Orange County to elicit incriminating evidence from defendants who haven't been convicted appeared in 2015 during the prosecution of Scott Dekraii, who had walked into the salon where his ex-wife worked and opened fire, killing her and seven others. He had confessed to the crime, and prosecutors wanted to seek the death penalty. Prosecutors and sheriff's deputies wired Dekraai's cell and put an informant next to him. After learning that the informant was far from an isolated case, the judge recused the DA's office from the

The Justice Department began its investigation in 2016. "All persons who are accused of a crime are guaranteed basic constitutional protections that are intended to ensure fairness in criminal proceedings and due process of law," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. The use of jailhouse informants isn't prohibited, but there are rules. An informant cannot actively elicit incriminating statements from a jailed defendant about their alleged crimes. The informant also cannot be a government agent who receives or is promised benefits in exchange for collecting information about other inmates. Moreover, prosecutors need to turn over to defense lawyers any exculpatory information about their witnesses, but this did not happen in Orange County, DOJ said. The information extracted from informants was presented as fact during at least 140 criminal proceedings in Orange County.


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