Assistant public defender Scott Sanders brought the issue of inmate Informants in Orange County to light and, since 2014, has been investigating a scandal that ended after eight years with no arrests.
The Department of Justice has agreed with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department, finding that they operate a custodial informant program that systematically violates criminal defendants’ sixth amendment right to counsel and 14th Amendments guarantee against due process.
Sanders says the 14th Amendment violations were about not disclosing to defense attorneys what the jailhouse informant was told by the charged defendant.
According to Sanders, the violation was a defendant’s right to have a lawyer present when discussing their case.
“You cannot have a law enforcement mole essentially question a defendant about his case. What they did was say he wasn’t working for us. He just happened to be there when a talkative defendant decided to open up about the crime he was charged with, and that’s how they did it again and again,” Sanders said.
The Justice Department has instructed local law enforcement agencies in Orange County, California to create standards for using confidential Informants and make sure they are turning over evidence when it’s their duty.
Sanders said that because of the scandal, they had retried 21 cases, and some sentences were reduced.