SANTA ANA Calif. (Reuters) - Prosecutors seeking the death penalty against a former tugboat worker who killed eight people in a 2011 shooting rampage at a California hair salon asked a judge on Monday to cut off further inquiry into his claims of misconduct on their part.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Howard Gundy said lawyers for Scott Dekraai had shown no evidence that prosecutors improperly used jailhouse informants to wring a confession from their client or intentionally concealed their tactics.
Prosecutors concede that they neglected to turn over evidence about the use of jailhouse informants but have characterized those failures as an oversight.
“We’re absolutely as far afield as we can get. The court can cut it off and the court should cut it off,” Gundy told Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals.
“At some point, we need to just get to the issues of the case,” he said. “This is the case of the people versus Scott Dekraai.”
An attorney for Dekraai countered that the issue was too important to be swept aside in a rush to sentence the mass murderer.
Dekraai, 44, pleaded guilty in May to first degree murder in the Oct. 12, 20ll, shooting rampage at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, but prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty against him.
Defense lawyers want Goethals to recuse prosecutors from the case and take the death penalty off the table. If he does, Dekraai would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Goethals was expected to hear evidence on Monday from at least one witness that the defense has called in a bid to prove their allegations, but he postponed that testimony because he had not read their court papers.
Prosecutors say Dekraai had been locked in a bitter child custody battle with ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, 48, when, armed with three guns, he walked into the salon and opened fire.
Fournier was killed along with salon owner Randy Fannin, 62, and six others. Dekraai was arrested blocks from the bloody scene in the heart of Seal Beach, a town about 20 miles (32 km)southeast of Los Angeles known by its residents as “Mayberry-by-the-Sea” for its bucolic, small-town atmosphere.
The salon shooting ranks as the worst mass killing in Orange County’s history, surpassing the seven killed and two wounded in a shooting by janitor Edward Charles Allaway at Cal State Fullerton in 1976.
Reporting by Dana Feldman; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Reporting by Eric Beech