A senior prosecutor in charge of the Orange County District Attorney's Office homicide unit said today defense attorneys have lodged “over the top” and “scurrilous” allegations in their attempt to remove the death penalty as an option for the man accused of committing the worst mass killing in Orange County history.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals today ordered sealed a 500-page motion from defense attorneys that makes the allegations of government misconduct in the case against Scott Evans Dekraai. The motion includes 20,000 pages of exhibit
“We think much of what's contained in it is untrue and unfounded,” said Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner. “There are over-the-top, scurrilous allegations in there... Unfortunately, these types of allegations are becoming sort of commonplace... for defense attorneys it's part of their normal litigation strategy.”
Goethals will revisit unsealing the motion at a hearing next Friday. Wagner requested the motion be sealed because it could pose a safety risk.
Dekraai's attorney, Scott Sanders of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, alleged in his motion that Orange County Sheriff's Department officials and prosecutors have been improperly using jailhouse informants.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys will argue the motion at a Feb. 28 hearing before Goethals.
Next week, defense attorneys are expected to file a motion to have the District Attorney's Office taken off the case and have the Attorney General's Office prosecute Dekraai.
At least one attorney familiar with the allegations believes it could put a dozen other cases on track for new trials.
Orange County sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock said he could not respond to the allegations in detail because he had not read the motion, but the department will cooperate with prosecutors in their legal response.
“I believe we used our informants properly,” Hallock said.
Paul Wilson, husband of 47-year-old Christy Wilson, who was killed in the Oct. 12, 2011, massacre at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, said he wishes prosecutors would drop their pursuit of the death penalty.
Wilson said he believes most of the victims' families feel the same way and would rather prosecutors offer the 44-year-old Dekraai a plea bargain that would keep him locked up for the rest of his life.
“We had a discussion about it at the last hearing when we were finding out the Public Defender was going to bring forth these ridiculous motions throwing the case out completely and having the District Attorney removed from the case,” Wilson told City News Service.
“If it was put up to the families for a vote you would probably see 95 percent of the families vote to just end this thing.”
Wilson would be fine seeing Dekraai executed, but given the state's slow rate of doling out the ultimate punishment it makes more sense to just get the legal proceedings over with, he said. The last time the state executed an inmate was eight years ago, the 14th since 1978. According to the Department of Corrections the average time served on Death Row is 17.5 years.
“We're asking for something we're not going to get,” Wilson said of the death penalty in Dekraai's case.
Wilson said it is agonizing to have to return to court multiple times and see the case drawn out.
“It's at my expense, my children's expense, my family. It's not fair to us,” Wilson said. “My feeling is us as families are the ones who have to deal with this and should have a say in this and we're not getting that.”
Some family members want Dekraai to face the death penalty, but Wilson thinks they are “misinformed” about what life is like on Death Row.
“They think somebody sits in that jail cell 24 hours a day and there's no visitation rights and no television,” Wilson said.
“But that's not the reality... He'll have some of the creature comforts of home that this animal doesn't deserve. He deserves to be in (general population) looking over his shoulder every second fearing for his life. That's the life he deserves.”
Dekraai is charged with eight counts of murder, with a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, and one count of attempted murder.
Dekraai is accused of walking into the salon and gunning down his former wife, 48-year-old Michelle Fournier, before opening fire on others inside and outside the business.
Killed in addition to Wilson and Fournier were salon owner Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Laura Lee Elody, 46; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; and David Caouette, 64.
Hattie Stretz, 75, survived her injuries.
--City News Service