When former California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris in 2015 launched a criminal investigation into corruption inside Orange County’s jails, local activists and attorneys hoped it would finally reveal the breadth of a scandal that engulfed the Sheriff’s Department and district attorney’s office — and may have affected countless court cases.
Four years later — after an investigation into the misuse of informants inside the county’s jails came to an anticlimactic end in a Santa Ana courtroom with no explanation and no charges filed — those same advocates were left asking a much simpler question: What happened?
Though the scandal sparked a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and led to retrials for dozens of defendants, including convicted murderers, the unexplained conclusion of the state inquiry has stirred frustration that many key players will escape accountability.
Harris’ successor, Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, has refused to discuss specifics about the inquiry or explain how a perjury investigation came up empty even after a Superior Court judge ruled that two deputies “intentionally lied or willfully withheld material evidence” about the misuse of informants at a murder trial.
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