The worst mass murderer in Orange County, Ca., history will not face execution, the Orange County Register reports. Judge Thomas Goethals took the death penalty off the table for confessed killer Scott Evans Dekraai, 47, citing misconduct by prosecutors and sheriff’s officials. Dekraai pleaded guilty to killing eight people and wounding another in a 2011 shooting spree. “This court finds the prosecution team is unable or unwilling” to provide the evidence to ensure Dekraai would get a fair penalty trial, Goethals said. He added it would have been “unconscionable and perhaps even cowardly” not to sanction local prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies for improperly using jailhouse informants and hiding evidence.
Goethals said local prosecutors and sheriff’s officials had themselves to blame. “If this case had been prosecuted from the outset by the Orange County District Attorney within the most fundamental parameters of prosecutorial propriety, this defendant would likely today be living alongside other convicted killers on California’s Death Row in the state prison at San Quentin,” he said. Goethals is likely to sentence Dekraai to eight consecutive life terms in prison on Sept. 22. The decision is a measure of how Orange County’s justice system has been damaged by accusations that law enforcement has for as many as 30 years secretly and illegally used jailhouse informants to cajole confessions from inmates represented by attorneys. Information about those informants was routinely withheld from the defense.