Sheriff Defends Deputies' Lies In Court By Saying Officers Didn't Know They Were Supposed To Tell The Truth

from the keep-calm-and-screw-citizens dept

The Orange County (CA) District Attorney’s office remains in the news. It’s not often an entire prosecutors’ office gets booted off a high-profile murder case, but that’s what happens when misconduct occurs on a massive scale. An open-and-shut murder case with eight victims is now the DA’s perpetual nightmare. Judge Thomas Goethals kicked the agency to the curb after uncovering repeated discovery violations committed by prosecutors.

But the problems go back further than this case. The office has hidden the existence of a law enforcement database from defense lawyers (and judges) for a quarter century — a database holding all sorts of information about jailhouse snitches that may have made the difference in a number of cases.

A quarter-century of obfuscation followed by outright lying on the stand by prosecution witnesses is something you’d think would be addressed by a swift housecleaning. You’d be wrong. So far, there have been no announcements from the DA about pending investigations — either into its own misconduct, or the repeated abuses of the jail’s snitch program run by the local sheriff’s office.

Add to that yet another revelation from the current criminal case: the sheriff’s office shredded documents ahead of an announced investigation by the DOJ.

Sheriff’s deputies doctored and shredded records after the announced launch of a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) probe eight years ago into suspected police corruption, according to the latest courthouse bombshell filed March 30 in what is known nationally as the Orange County Jailhouse Informant Scandal.

Revealed in a brief filed by Scott Sanders, the assistant public defender in People v. Scott Dekraai, a pending death penalty case marred by astonishing law enforcement misconduct, Deputy Michael Carrillo wrote an entry never intended for public consumption: “ADUJSTED (sic) THE DISCIPLINARY ISOLATION LOGS FOR THE DOJ TO MATCH THE LOGS FOR AD-SEG AND PC LOGS, PER SGT JOHNSON.”

Those in charge of the sheriff’s snitch program have been asked to testify in response to perjury allegations. They have chosen not to, with each sheriff’s office witness called pleading the Fifth. This chain of events has led to the most jaw-dropping law enforcement statement I have ever read, and that includes arguments made in support of setting toddlers on fire with carelessly-tossed flashbang grenades.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens claims the veteran officers were unaware they were required to testify honestly during prior court appearances for the death penalty case marred by astonishing degrees of government cheating.

Officers, especially veteran ones, are aware they are required to testify honestly. This is why they’re sworn in before testimony. There’s a promise made at that point. Not testifying honestly is called “perjury,” as the officers are surely aware. High school students taking civics classes are aware of this. No one’s really unclear on the whole “tell the truth in court” thing.

This is R. Scott Moxley’s paraphrasing of what was actually asserted by the sheriff. The paraphrasing strips the original quote of its defensive obfuscation, but the real quote is no less damning, if not as direct. (Original quote obtained from Moxley.)

[T]he OC sheriff was asked why a veteran deputy had lied about the existence of incriminating agency TRED records after swearing in open court he would tell the “whole truth” and she replied, “I believe he was unclear about what he could or couldn’t say about that system.”

I’m not sure what the deputy thought was unclear, other than it seemed wiser for him to lie to the court than reveal the database the sheriff’s office had kept hidden from defendants for years. If there was a question about what could be said in open court, the sheriff’s witnesses could have asked to discuss the specifics in camera and allow the judge to decided whether it could be discussed publicly. Denying the existence of records that exist is still perjury, no matter how the sheriff wants to spin it.

Hutchens and every “veteran officer” she’s referring to should be fired immediately. Anyone who honestly believes testifying in court is subject to discretion calls by the sheriff’s office about what can and can’t be discussed needs to replaced with those who understands and respects the oaths they take. If they’re actually stupid enough to believe being a law enforcement officer makes truth-telling under oath optional, they should be forced to tattoo “THIS END UP” on their foreheads to prevent them from making unfortunate decisions about which method of bipedal ambulation works most efficiently and have “DON’T LIE IN COURT” notes safety-pinned to their chests if they’re going to be within 1000 feet of any US courthouse.

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Comments on “Sheriff Defends Deputies' Lies In Court By Saying Officers Didn't Know They Were Supposed To Tell The Truth”

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52 Comments
That One Guysays:

For a start, sure

Hutchens and every "veteran officer" she’s referring to should be fired immediately.

Followed by being blacklisted from ever working in law enforcement ever again, and placed under investigation for perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and I’m sure a good number of other crimes. They didn’t ‘just’ flat out lie under oath, they did so in a case where a person’s life was on the line. Something like that should carry hefty penalties.

An immediate reversal of any guilty verdicts that involved the office would probably be a good idea as well, given if they were willing to lie on something this serious I don’t believe for a second they haven’t been lying through their teeth in other cases as well, such that the default assumption should be that they lied in all of them.

TheResidentSkepticsays:

And in related news...

… the innocence project is in need of about 2500 new lawyers to handle the influx of cases.

I agree – EVERY case these guys have EVER testified in is now suspect. Any case decided or swayed by their testimony should be overturned.

So we’ve uncovered massive fraud in Lab Testing and now lying by the very people sworn to uphold the law.

I’m putting away my TD popcorn and getting out the TD Scotch.

Anonymous Anonymous Cowardsays:

Re: Re: And in related news...

TD Scotch is probably already Trademarked, by some brewery or other…erm…distillery or other (except they get sooo confused).

If not, make it a single malt, and age some of it in old port barrels, it makes for a sweet drink. Also, keep some aside for the 30 and 60 year aging. I suspect TD will still be around despite the efforts of some efette something or other’s.

Vidiotsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: And in related news...

No, TD Scotch is Canadian… just like the bank, Toronto Dominion… there’s some kind of Commonwealth-y link to Scotland, which apparently ought to be called Scotchland, since that’s where it all seems to come from. Wait, that’s it! The Scotchland Whiskeymakers’ Guild sues Techdirt because Scotch needs to be Scotch, dammit. Or Scottish, or whatever. Just like Feta and Parmigiano cheese can’t be made in New Jersey. Another TD Scotch, please. Neat.

tomsays:

Since there seems to have been a repeating pattern and obvious intent by much of the DA’s office and Sheriff’s office, charges such as false imprisonment(if anyone served time due to false testimony), and conspiracy to commit false imprisonment, theft(if any fines were collected due to false testimony), conspiracy to commit theft, and maybe RICO charges should be considered.

Plus a hearing should be held on stripping the officials involved of their qualified immunity so the victims can bring civil suits.

ACsays:

So officers don’t know they can’t just make stuff up in court, but it’s all academic anyway, since SCOTUS already said that officers only need to believe they are enforcing a law to do a full investigation.

Basically, Law Enforcement Officers don’t have any responsibility to know what the hell they’re doing. In the rare case they do get caught, they either get a short-term paid vacation or the minor inconvenience of having to get a new job in the next town over.

You best start believing in police states, Techdirt reader… you’re in one!

katsaisays:

To paraphrase Dave Chappelle...

To the judge: “Sorry your honor. We didn’t know we couldn’t do that.”

To the deputies: “Pretty good, right? Because we did know we couldn’t do that!”

Once again proving that ignorance is absolutely a defense against the law, assuming you are a law enforcement officer.

Winstonsays:

Gone With The Wind

The government claims the right to imprison “citizens” for lying to “authorities,” but exempt themselves from the same standards.

Sounds like standard criminal behavior to me.

Can’t think of any defense against insane folks pretending to be authorized to make it up as they go along, except avoiding them as much as possible, and plan an escape from this doomed society.

Winstonsays:

Gone With The Wind

The government claims the right to imprison “citizens” for lying to “authorities,” but exempt themselves from the same standards.

Sounds like standard criminal behavior to me.

Can’t think of any defense against insane folks pretending to be authorized to make it up as they go along, except avoiding them as much as possible, and plan an escape from this doomed society.

Anonymoussays:

WOW — two back-to-back corrupt sheriffs: Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. Maybe they could share a jail cell together in the Federal pen. If the FBI were to conduct a full investigation and dig deep, they’d probably find as much rotten in the Orange county Sheriff dept as they found in LA county S.D.

It’s a sad situation that law enforcement officials almost never get investigated, and now here’s another case in Southern California that deserves a hard look. Time will tell if the FBI decides to get involved, or more likely, this kind of abuse gets swept under the rug by “the system” yet again.

Anonymoussays:

Seriously? Just what in the name of God do they think that oath they take is supposed to mean? "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God."

Exactly what about that oath to tell the truth does law enforcement NOT understand?

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens claims the veteran officers were unaware they were required to testify honestly during prior court appearances for the death penalty case marred by astonishing degrees of government cheating.

Johnsays:

Doesn’t this make the entire OC Sheriffs department useless as a law enforcement organisation?

I can’t see how any one of these officers can now testify in court against any suspect without the defence calling their honesty into question, and referring to the statements made by their boss. If an entire department can be made to appear dishonest in front of a jury, then any evidence presented can be called into question.

Is this a fair assessment of the situation?

Alexandersays:

Conspiracy

Can this just be RICOed and throw the whole lot of them, DA’s and cops in prison starting with perjury. If they weren’t participating, they were profiting by proxy.

I have never understood why when a cops testimony is proven to be false that they are not immediately convicted of perjury. Surely the sames stands for officers of the court like DA’s. When they put their signature on their reports, all of their reports, they are swearing that the document is a true statement of facts, not opinions. Sure they can make mistakes, but outright lies and fabrications need to end in prison, not in a job offer from the next jurisdiction over.

Ryunosukesays:

a LOT of people are going straight to hell, to meet with the Devil himself.

you know that whole bit “Do you swear (upon the Holy Bible) to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing BUT the truth, so help you God?” — ya about that…. pretty sure God isn’t going to be thrilled that you swore to do something in his name, and did the opposite.

orbitalinsertionsays:

Re: Re:

Aside from no one should ever be asking that, it is frequently swear or affirm. As for those who do actively believe that swearing to their god to tell the truth means something, they also frequently seem to believe lying (examined or not) about some things is actually in service to their god so it’s A OK.

Stephensays:

“[T]he OC sheriff…replied, ‘I believe he was unclear about what he could or couldn’t say about that system.'”

Haven’t we heard a version of that defence before?

Back when a certain federal Director of National Intelligence was revealed by Snowden documents to have lied under oath to a public hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2013 there were those who tried to excuse his lie by in effect claiming it was OK to lie under oath in order to keep classified information from being revealed.

ShadowNinjasays:

This is why we shouldn't have the death penalty

California’s death row is such a mess that it hasn’t been able to put anyone to death in ages, even those who have exhausted their appeals a while ago.

Given how this lying and corruption has been going on for 25 years, how many potentially innocent people could have wrongly been put to death by Orange country police and DA?

ThaumaTechniciansays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: This is why we shouldn't have the death penalty

So… because the people are too lazy to demand accountability and integrity from police officers we should do "something else" instead?

Jeebus Farkin’ Cripes! How do you even manage automatic breathing, eh?

Innocent people, lots of ’em, have been put to death by people you’ve elected. Nothing can fix those deaths but by moving that option off the table, it can be prevented in the future. Is that too difficult to understand?

They’ve had their chance with the very serious options, and they’ve shown over and over and over that they can’t be trusted to use them responsibly, so they need to be taken away.

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