The defense for mass murderer Scott Dekraai wants to call Sheriff Sandra Hutchens back to the witness stand to explain how a former sheriff’s lieutenant was promoted to captain after giving testimony about the use of jailhouse informants.
Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, in a brief filed Tuesday, points out that Capt. David Johnson didn’t seem to ripe for a promotion prior to testifying in May that deputies in the local jails don’t routinely place informants next to inmates to help prosecutors.
“The department promoted an employee who…was under internal investigation…had refused to testify in a capital murder case and…arguably committed perjury during his testimony,” Sanders wrote in his brief, submitted Tuesday.
Sanders, in the brief, is asking Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals to re-open a special hearing on the use of jailhouse informants and order Hutchens back to the witness stand. A decision is expected on Thursday, when final arguments are scheduled.
Sheriffs spokesman Lt. Lane Lagaret said Tuesday that Hutchens would not object to returning to court.
“The Sheriff would be happy to come back and testify on anything Judge Goethals thinks is pertinent to this case,” Lagaret said.
Johnson was temporarily promoted from lieutenant to captain to take the place of Capt. Brian Schmutz, who is on paid leave pending an internal affairs investigation, according to sheriff officials. Johnson will go back to lieutenant after Schmutz returns, Lagaret said. Johnson also is the subject of an internal affairs investigation, but the reason is unclear.
Johnson drew widespread criticism after testifying in May that he started a computer log in 2008 for deputies who worked with informants. But, he said, he never read it. Johnson testified under an immunity agreement with the California Attorney General’s Office after initially invoking the 5th Amendment.
During more than three hours of testimony, Johnson appeared reluctant to use the word “informant,” instead calling them “sources of information.” Even when shown a memo that hung on the wall of a jail office — a memo that coached jailers to cultivate informants — Johnson denied that deputies under his watch did so.
Goethals, who booted the district attorney’s office from the Dekraai penalty phase and enlisted the Attorney General’s office to prosecute, was unimpressed by Johnson’s testimony.
“This witness has some credibility challenges that are obvious to…