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Defense in salon killings will get data on jail informant

Prosecutors must turn over information on the prisoner who recorded comments by cellmate Scott Dekraai, accused of killing eight people.

January 25, 2013|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
  • Scott Dekraai is accused in the 2011 killings at the Meritage Salon in Seal Beach, where his ex-wife worked.
Scott Dekraai is accused in the 2011 killings at the Meritage Salon in Seal… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)

Prosecutors were ordered Friday to hand over material about a jailhouse informant who helped authorities secretly record hours of conversation with the man accused of gunning down eight people in the deadliest mass shooting in Orange County history.

The recordings were made a week after the arrest of Scott Dekraai, 43, in the 2011 midday rampage at a Seal Beach salon where his ex-wife worked.

Defense attorney Scott Sanders argued that he needs more information about the informant and his involvement with other criminal cases, including Dekraai's, to determine whether his client's right to a fair trial has been violated.

In court filings, Sanders said the informant, who is facing two life sentences for various crimes, including drug-related felonies, has had three years of delays on his cases and has been the "beneficiary of special treatment."

Prosecutors argued that because the informant would not be called as a witness in the trial, the information did not need to be turned over. But Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals disagreed and ordered prosecutors to turn over the information.

The informant, referred to as "Fernando P." in court documents, alerted law enforcement after Dekraai began talking about the case in his jail cell, according to court documents.

After prosecutors, investigators and law enforcement officers met with the man, a recording device was placed in Dekraai's cell for six days.

The recordings include 132 segments of one-hour audio files, many of which include conversations about Dekraai's "crimes and personal history," according to court documents.

Prosecutors intend to use the recordings at a jury trial, Assistant Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner said.

In a court filing, Wagner said that the inmate did not initiate the conversations, and responded only with words such as "really," "wow" and "huh."

He also said that the district attorney does not intend to give the informant any leniency on his sentencing.

In court Friday, Wagner said that Dekraai babbled "on and on" to the informant without being prompted and made "inflammatory" statements such as "I wrecked my life."

"We want the jury to hear everything the defendant said," Wagner said after the hearing.

He added that he believes the evidence in the tapes will show Dekraai's "mind-set" about the crimes.

In January 2012, Dekraai was indicted on eight counts of murder with special circumstances and one felony count of attempted murder. Dekraai has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.

A tentative trial date has been set for March 25, though Sanders said the defense is "not close to being ready."

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

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