The U.S. Justice Department is starting a civil investigation of the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s office in Orange County, Ca. for possible constitutional violations in the use of jailhouse informants, reports the Wall Street Journal. It is the latest development in a running controversy over the possible misuse of jailhouse informants in the Southern California county. DOJ said the probe will focus on allegations that the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department systematically used jailhouse informants to elicit incriminating statements from specific inmates who had been charged and were represented by counsel, in violation of the Sixth Amendment.
Also being investigated is whether there were constitutional violations related to failures by prosecutors to disclose leniency promises made to informants “that would have substantially undermined the credibility” of those individuals as witnesses. Under the 1963 Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors are required to give potentially exculpatory information to criminal defendants and their attorneys. The review was requested by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said, “I welcome this review and investigation and will cooperate fully. It is, and has been, our ultimate goal to have a jail system that is exemplary.”