The Orange County Sheriff's Department has been under investigation for unconstitutionally using snitches in criminal cases. The scandal, which has been unfolding for three years, is still being denied by the department, although evidence released on Dec. 6 by Judge Thomas Goethals may be the final proof needed to condemn them.
The Huffington Post reports that Goethals released over 242 pages of notes from the sheriff's department to the public. The notes described shredding documents and enlisting one of the officers to educate others on using informants. The case is examining whether Orange County defendants have had their constitutional rights violated by officers and county prosecutors who have illegally gotten tips from jailed criminals and, in some cases, intentionally withheld important information that they received from the snitches.
William Grover, one of the officers being investigated in the case, categorically denied using informants in 2014, but the new papers released show Grover met repeatedly with a jail informant.
Seth Tunstall and Ben Garcia are two other officers associated with the corrupt snitch system, which is still being denied by the department years later. The Orange County District Attorney's Office also denied the claims before conceding that they were true in June 2016.
Multiple cases have been affected by the scandal, with judges vacating sentences and questioning the rulings of some cases.
The Intercept reports that "Prosecutorial misconduct and the misuse of jailhouse informants are persistent problems in the criminal justice system. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, since 1989 there have been 923 exonerations tied to official misconduct by prosecutors, police, or other government officials, 89 of them in cases involving the use of jailhouse snitches."
The use of jailhouse informants was famously called into question during the 1990 Los Angeles Grand Jury Report, during which it was determined that law enforcement fabricated confessions from defendants from elaborate methods and dishonest informants.
The fact that the sheriff's department has refused to acknowledge the problem has undoubtedly cast a long shadow of doubt over the trustworthiness of the department and its officers. Hopefully, this new evidence will prove that they have been using jailhouse informants, and the department will finally have to confess to any unjust actions.
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