Santa Ana prosecutors are accused of misusing witnesses in key death penalty cases.
Prosecutors are accused of failing to disclose the use of a prison informants in death penalty cases such as the case against Daniel Patrick Wozniak.
It is permissible for prosecutors to use a witness who either over heard or conversed with an accused. If the accused makes an admission to the witness while in prison, the statement is admissible in court through they testimony of the witness.
Prosecutors are required, however, to turn over key evidence. The controversy in Santa Ana relates to whether the admissions are key evidence that required disclosure, whether or not the prosecutor actually called the witness and offered the admissions into evidence.
A long time informant, Fernando Perez, is at the center of the controversy. Perez is responsible for informing on prison gangs and passing notes from those gang members to law enforcement.
Perez also informed on Scott Evans Dekraai who is accused of mass murder and facing the death penalty.
Dekraai gave intimate details of his crime to Perez after he moved to the same jail module.
Perez became friends with Dekraai, and Dekraai felt comfortable when Perez asked him why he committed the mass shooting. Dekraai responded with reasons and events leading up to the shooting, as well as a minute by minute description of the crime.
Jail informants are permitted to be passive, but aggressive questioning raises questions of constitutionality.