California mass killer spared death
penalty over prosecutor misconduct
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[August 19, 2017]
By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California man
convicted of the worst mass killing in Orange County history was spared
the death penalty on Friday after a judge found that serious misconduct
by prosecutors had violated his rights to a fair trial.
The ruling means that, barring a successful appeal, former tugboat
worker Scott Dekraai, 47, will be sentenced to life in prison for
killing eight people in a 2011 shooting rampage at a Seal Beach hair
"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 be living alongside
other convicted killers on California's Death Row," Superior Court Judge
Thomas Goethals wrote in a 19-page ruling.
Dekraai pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in May
2014, making him eligible for the death penalty, but the judge took the
case away from Orange County prosecutors the following year over
accusations that a jailhouse informant was improperly used to wring a
confession from him.
The California Attorney General's Office has handled the prosecution
since then but the case has been stalled over litigation due to a
widening scandal regarding the use of informants in the Orange County
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a written
statement that he was disappointed in the ruling.
"Whether some members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department failed
to produce tangential information in a timely manner has nothing to do
with what Dekraai did and the fact that Dekraai deserves the death
penalty," Rackauckas said.
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Scott Dekraai (R) pleads guilty of killing eight people in October
2011, at Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, California,
U.S., May 2, 2014. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo/File Photo
"Scott Dekraai executed and confessed to the deadliest shooting in
the history of Orange County, long before he was booked into the
Orange County Jail," the Orange County Sheriff Department said in a
California's Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy told reporters
outside court that his office had not yet decided whether to appeal.
Dekraai's attorney could not be reached for comment.
Dekraai was locked in a custody battle with his ex-wife Michelle
Fournier when he walked into Salon Meritage carrying three guns and
Fournier was killed in the shop along with six others. Outside,
Dekraai fatally shot 64-year-old David Caouette, who was sitting in
his sport utility vehicle.
Dekraai was arrested blocks from the bloody scene in the heart of
Seal Beach, a community southeast of Los Angeles known by locals as
"Mayberry by the Sea" for its bucolic, small-town ambiance.
(Editing by Marcy Nicholson)
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