Factors in the death penalty decision for Seal Beach mass murderer

There’s no doubt Scott Evans Dekraai killed eight people at a Seal Beach beauty salon in October 2011. What remains to be decided is how he will be punished.

What are the options? 

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals on Friday could take the death penalty off the table, sentencing Dekraai to eight consecutive life sentences without the chance of parole.

Or Goethals can leave the death penalty option open and set a date for a penalty trial in which a jury would consider Dekraai’s fate.

What is the argument for sparing Dekraai’s life? 

Goethals has said he will base his decision in part on whether the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has complied with a court order he issued in 2013 requiring the agency to produce records related to the use of jail house informants.

Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, who represents Dekraai, has argued that the sheriff’s department misused informants and failed to produce required records in a timely fashion, arguing his client can’t get a fair trial. He maintains sheriff’s officials can’t be trusted to turn over evidence that could help Dekraai, in the current hearing and should the case go to a sentencing proceeding that could lead to a death penalty.

What is the argument for keeping the death penalty intact for Dekraai?

Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy argues there is no proof sheriff’s officials possess evidence helpful to Dekraai. Absent that proof, the judge does not have the legal authority to remove the death penalty, the state says. Murphy also maintains Goethals cannot use the death penalty question to punish the sheriff’s department or the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for any misconduct in the case.

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