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Thursday, December 1, 2016

OC Jailhouse Informant Special Investigation

While those who work for the “people” are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that is beyond reproach, it seems that some prosecutors will go to any lengths to ensure a conviction—even if that means breaking the law. Over the summer, we discussed a scandal taking place at the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) office, with regard to both prosecutors and local sheriff’s deputies misusing jailhouse informants.

The issue, which prompted the American Civil Liberties Union threatening to file a lawsuit, if the OCDA did not hand over internal documents related to the use of jailhouse informants, is severe with inappropriate behavior stemming back to the 1980s. The fiasco in Orange County(CA) led Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, to propose legislation that would subject any California prosecutor found withholding or falsifying evidence to felony charges and possible prison time. California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1909 on September 30, 2016.

The investigation into alleged jailhouse informant misuse has been going on for a few years now, and has become known as the “snitch scandal,” The Orange County Register reports. This week, Orange County supervisors voted on assisting to provide the Orange County grand jury with $400,000 to compensate two lawyers serving as special investigators for the grand jury. The legal duo includes Andrea Ordin, former U.S. attorney and current member of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and Fred Woocher, an election law expert and former special counsel to the California Attorney General.

It is uncommon for grand juries to request special investigative assistance, according to the Attorney General’s office. However, the scope of the case is huge, considering that the misuse of jailhouse informants and keeping evidence from the defense that could have been beneficial has already lead to the outcome of six or more high-profile criminal cases to be altered or reversed altogether. Interestingly, neither the OCDA or the Sheriff's Department seemed to be all that concerned about the special investigation team.

“We welcome any outside inquiry in this matter and look forward to seeing the results,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the District Attorney’s Office. And Sheriff's department spokesman Lt. Mark Stichter said: “We always make ourselves available to the grand jury to answer questions and to provide information to them. They’re the grand jury, they can make the decision to do what they feel is best.” 

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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