Date: November 19, 2015
OCDA RESPONSE TO LETTER SENT BY UCI DEAN ERWIN CHEMERINSKY AND OTHER UNDERSIGNED ATTORNEYS AND AGENCIES REGARDING THE USE OF INFORMANTS IN ORANGE COUNTY
SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) was made aware through various media sources that a letter was sent to United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed by University of California, Irvine (UCI) Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, activist Angela Davis, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and former prosecutors and law professors, requesting that the United States Department of Justice conduct a review of the OCDA’s use of jailhouse informants.
The OCDA intends to respond in full at a later date. Immediately, the OCDA would like to make the following comment:
Professor Chemerinsky stated in part in a law review article that, “In order to comment competently on a case, it will ordinarily be necessary for the commentator to watch, listen to, or read all of the transcripts of an entire trial. Yes, that means following every word. It does not work to observe a case sporadically. A passing phrase by a witness or the court could be critical to an issue. A commentator must dedicate himself or herself to following every part of a proceeding,” (The Ethics of Being a Commentator, 1322). The full text of the article can be accessed at https://orangecountyda.orgby clicking on the Reports section and selecting The Ethics of Being a Commentator under the Reports menu.
Professor Chemerinsky, along with each of the undersigned, have not attended any of the court proceedings in People v. Wozniak, and are relying on factually incorrect media accounts of the circumstances of the case.
In fact, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy, who is prosecuting the Wozniak case, has personally made himself available to Professor Chemerinsky. Professor Chemerinksy never requested the OCDA’s reply brief, did not attend a single hearing, and never ordered the transcripts of the court’s proceedings.
In response to the allegations, the OCDA requested that Professor Chemerinsky host a forum at UCI to discuss these issues. Professor Chemerinsky put the OCDA off for several months. In that time, three other law schools responded and hosted spirited forums to discuss the use of informants in Orange County.
A neutral party from the California Attorney General’s Office (CAG) was present in every moment of the hearings, heard every witness, and thoroughly examined every piece of evidence. The CAG, after the Honorable Judge Thomas M. Goethals’ ruling in the case of People v. Dekraai, made an independent decision to appeal Judge Goethals’ ruling, and did in fact appeal the ruling. To read the CAG’s appeal of Judge Goethals’ ruling, visit https://orangecountyda.organd click on the Reports section and select the Attorney General’s Appellant’s Brief under the Reports menu.
Although the OCDA respectfully disagrees with Judge Goethals’ ruling, his ruling even explicitly states that he found that there was no intentional misconduct by the OCDA. It is unfortunate that Professor Chemerinsky, ACLU, and all of the other undersigned activists and others did not abide by Professor Chemerinsky’s ethical standards about opining about a case in such an inflammatory way without conducting due diligence.
The OCDA has made and will continue to make many changes to better make use of informants in Orange County both internally and with law enforcement agencies. The OCDA is also currently awaiting the findings and suggestions of the independent committee. To view details about the independent committee, visit the following link: https://orangecountyda.org/civica/press/display.asp?layout=2&Entry=4366
In regards to the former prosecutors whose signatures are included in the letter, it is very disappointing that they would add their signatures to this letter when the OCDA is in the middle of jury selection in the case of People v. Wozniak. Wozniak was indicted on May 3, 2012, by the Orange County Grand Jury for using a firearm to murder his neighbor for financial gain and murdering the victim’s friend in an effort to derail the investigation by framing the first victim. Wozniak was charged May 28, 2010, with two felony counts of special circumstances murder with special circumstance sentencing enhancements for committing multiple murders, murder for financial gain, and a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death. The OCDA special circumstances committee met June 10, 2010, and decided to seek the death penalty in this case.
The innocent victims’ families in People v. Wozniak have been waiting for justice in this case for nearly five and a half years, before the Honorable Judge John D. Conley ruled that the public defender had merely repeated baseless accusations and allegations that were untrue. As for the Wozniak case, Judge Conley has categorically rejected the public defender’s arguments (many of them identical to the ones made in the People v. Dekraai case) even after incorporating those arguments and accusations in the Wozniak case. To view the OCDA’s response to Judge Conley’s ruling please visit the following link: https://orangecountyda.org/civica/press/display.asp?layout=2&Entry=4531
The OCDA will continue to seek justice in all cases.