The man responsible for the worst mass killing in Orange County history was formally sentenced to life in prison without parole today. Scott Dekraai, who killed eight people, and shot a ninth person in October 2011, was sentenced to eight terms of life in prison without parole, with an additional 232 years to life for attempted murder and other charges.
The Orange County Register reports that Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals told Dekraai that, “The gates of Hell flew open and you emerged as the face of evil in this community,” before sentencing him.
Today’s sentence ends a six-year legal nightmare for many of the victims’ family members, who had pleaded with prosecutors to accept the defense offer of a guilty plea in exchange for a sentence of life without parole, but were ignored.
The sentence was a rebuke to the Orange County District Attorney’s office, under the supervision of the beleaguered DA Tony Rackauckas. During the trial, Orange County Public Defender Scott Sanders uncovered evidence that the DA’s office and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department had been running a clandestine jail informant program for decades to gather information about people in custody without their knowledge or the knowledge of their attorneys.
Dekraai’s lawyers had argued that as a result of their misconduct, the death penalty should be ruled out because prosecutors couldn’t be trusted to turn over evidence that would help the defense. Instead, they said Dekraai should be sentenced to eight life terms, without the possibility of parole.
The judge agreed. And at the sentencing today, the Register says, Goethals told the courtroom that if the case had been handled ethically, “I think it is highly likely that a jury would have convicted you and recommended I sentence you to death. I probably would have done exactly that.”