The famed news show “60 Minutes” is focusing on Orange County Sunday night, looking hard at the way jailhouse informants are used by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and local sheriff deputies and police agencies.
It’s a topic The Register knows well.
For three years we’ve been reporting on how county prosecutors and deputies have cheated to get convictions, using jailhouse informants against suspected criminals after those criminals have hired attorneys, a violation of federal law, and routinely withholding information from defense lawyers. The problems have prompted one judge to throw local prosecutors off the Seal Beach mass murder case and other judges to force new trials or new — lighter — sentences for people convicted of murder or attempted murder.
Our coverage also has inspired investigators to look hard at the county. The U.S. Dept. of Justice, the California Attorney General and the Orange County Grand Jury are independently investigating how county prosecutors do their work. And a state appeals court described cheating by county prosecutors as “systemic.” Just this week, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled that county prosecutors would have to change a murder conviction in retrial — or let the criminal go — because a prosecutor didn’t tell the defense about a California Highway Patrol report that would have helped the defendant.
As part of “60 Minutes’” take on the situation, reporters interview an informant who admits to lying under oath. Reporters also talk to Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who concedes that the informant is a liar.
Here are a few of the dozens of stories that the Register has done on the subject:
INSIDE THE ‘SNITCH TANK’: Salon massacre case sparks hard look at jailhouse informants
Money, cable TV, food delivery: How Mexican Mafia snitches lived like kings behind bars