SANTA ANA (AP) — Questioned in court, a Southern California sheriff denied the existence of a jailhouse informant system run by her department’s deputies.
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens testified Wednesday and addressed allegations the department has wrongfully withheld evidence from defense attorneys about informant use.
Hutchens maintained that the long-running controversy surrounding snitches was a “matter of semantics,” the Orange County Register reported. She conceded there may be a few rogue deputies but denied there was a widespread informant system.
Hutchens was questioned by assistant public defender Scott Sanders as part of an evidentiary hearing in the case for his client, convicted mass murderer Scott Dekraai. He has pleaded guilty to killing eight people in a 2011 shooting rampage at a hair salon.
The allegations about informants surfaced in the case against Dekraai and now his lawyer wants his client to be spared the death penalty because of the issue.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals previously removed the county district attorney’s office from the case after finding deputies lied or withheld evidence about snitches. The state attorney general’s office is now prosecuting Dekraai’s case.
Hutchens, who recently announced that she will not seek re-election at the end of her term in 2018, and her office have faced harsh criticism by Goethals and Sanders for not turning over key information in discovery.