June 18, 2017
Can Orange County media corps handle the truth? The title of the Orange County Grand Jury’s report released this week, “The Myth of the Orange County Jailhouse Informant Program,” says it all. The report confirms the steadfast position of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office both in court and in the media regarding informant matters. The OCGJ found the media coverage had been exaggerated and called it a “witch-hunt” for agency corruption.
The OCGJ conducted the most thorough examination on this subject to date and found “no systemic or wide-spread use of jailhouse informants by the OCDA, nor any intentional attempts to violate defendants’ rights through the use of jailhouse informants.” They found no evidence of an office-wide “win at all costs” mentality of prosecutors, no concerted effort to circumvent the law in order to ensure successful prosecutions, or a conspiracy between law enforcement agencies.
With subpoena power in hand, the OCGJ was diligent in their efforts and spent more than 3,500 hours seeking out and reviewing over 40,000 pages of documentation, listened to dozens of hours of informant tape recordings, and interviewed more than 150 people during their investigation into the criminal justice system in Orange County. They issued a well-researched and fact-driven report in which each piece of evidence was triple-corroborated and reviewed by subject matter experts. The OCGJ was aided by outside legal counsel secured by the California attorney general, who thoroughly reviewed previous Orange County cases where illegal informant use had been alleged in an attempt to verify the allegations of systematic prosecutorial misconduct.
The panel stood united in a press conference and reaffirmed their report which stated:
• “The OCGJ is confident there is no program of jailhouse informant use for criminal investigation in the Orange County jails.”
• “Allegations of intentional motivation by a corrupt District Attorney’s Office … to violate citizen’s constitutional rights are unfounded. Disparate facts have been woven together and a combination of conjecture and random events have been juxtaposed to create a tenuous narrative insinuating nefarious intent. That narrative does not stand up to factual validation.”
This controversy was created by a public defender desperate to spare a mass-murderer the death penalty after the OCDA secured the guilty plea and, at a minimum, a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. He’s following famous criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz’s advice, “In representing criminal defendants — especially guilty ones — it is often necessary to take the offensive against the government: to put the government on trial for its misconduct. In law, as in sports, the best defense is often a good offense.”
The media has no excuse since the OCDA spent multiple days and hours with line reporters and their supervisors, painstakingly going over the law and the facts. Yet time and time again, they would simply regurgitate what the public defender stated. Then they would legitimize their stance by inserting “experts” who were law professors and or politicians who had not studied the mountains of information.
The OCGJ made eight valuable suggestions which relate to improving technology, inter-office communication and training, and of course the OCDA intends to respond in writing within 60 days as required by law.
We at the OCDA know that we have a great office that is the best practice model in the fight against gangs, human traffickers, big-Pharma opiate abuse, and more. The people of Orange County have our promise to continue to be the protectors of Orange County, keeping it the safest of all surrounding counties.
Tony Rackauckas is the Orange County district attorney.