Statement by OCDA Tony Rackauckas: Grand Jury Indictments on Jail Death

Statements by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas

Grand Jury Indictment

March 7, 2008



Thank you for coming.


I am here to talk about the unsealing of the grand jury indictment against three former inmates in the beating murder of their fellow inmate, John Chamberlain.  This indictment concludes the criminal portion of the investigation into Mr. Chamberlain’s death.  Nine former inmates, in total now, face murder charges.  There will be no other criminal indictments at this time based on this investigation.  Their trial is currently scheduled to begin on June 13. 


As many of you know, I requested a Special Criminal Grand Jury be empaneled on May 17, 2007.  The purpose of this grand jury was to investigate whether any Orange County Sheriff personnel were criminally liable for their failure to properly perform their assigned duties, as well as whether there were additional inmates responsible for the murder.  We conducted a thorough investigation into all of the circumstances surrounding the homicide. The answers I was seeking were:


  • whether there was a failure of duty or malfeasance by any Sheriff’s jail personnel;
  • whether any Sheriff personnel aided and abetted the murder of Chamberlain or was criminally liable in his death;
  • whether there was a violation of existing investigative protocol;
  • identify other inmate assailants;
  • and any other facts involving the investigation into the Chamberlain matter. 


During the nine months of service by the Special Grand Jury, 79 witnesses were called including 42 Sheriff’s personnel and five retired Sheriff’s officials, including former Sheriffs Michael Carona and Brad Gates. 


Some have suggested that based on the press accounts and rumors about the failure of Sheriff’s personnel to perform their duties, the grand jury should have issued indictments against them. 


As you know, in order to charge anyone with a crime, we must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the elements of the offense.