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Closing arguments begin in Orange County mass killing trial

Scott Dekraai, convicted of killing eight people in a Seal Beach beauty salon, listens while his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, addresses the court during a motion hearing in Santa Ana on March 18, 2014.
Scott Dekraai, convicted of killing eight people in a Seal Beach beauty salon, listens while his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, addresses the court during a motion hearing in Santa Ana on March 18, 2014.
AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Mark Boster, Pool

Closing arguments were scheduled to begin Thursday morning in the hearing to determine whether the death penalty should be removed as a sentencing option for the confessed killer of eight people during a 2011 shooting spree in Seal Beach.

Scott Dekraai pleaded guilty to the worst mass killing in Orange County history in 2014, but the sentencing phase of his trial has been delayed because of allegations that the OC Sheriff's Department and District Attorney's Office improperly used a jailhouse informant to bolster their case. 

Dekraai could be sentenced to death, but his attorney — assistant public defender Scott Sanders — has argued that capital punishment should be stricken as an option because of the informant scandal.

Sanders alleges that sheriff's deputies intentionally placed a jailhouse informant in a cell adjacent to Dekraai's cell shortly after the latter's arrest and recorded their conversations in hopes of countering a potential insanity plea. 

The sentencing phase of the trial has been postponed for years while Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals hears testimony about the  informant scandal. That scandal has affected other cases as well. 

Earlier this summer, Sanders called OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens to the stand to question her about the scandal. During her testimony, Hutchens admitted that for years, some deputies in the county’s jails improperly used confidential informants to elicit incriminating statements from defendants — in potential violation of their constitutional rights.

This story has been updated.