The most lethal mass shooter in Orange County history is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, and only one thing is a given for that part of the proceedings — emotions will run high.
Scott Evans Dekraai, 47, is expected to be sentenced to eight terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, one life each for the eight he took in 2011 during a rampage at a Seal Beach hair salon.
But before the sentence is handed out a bit of speech-making will be in order.
Survivors of Dekraai’s victims will get a chance to say something, perhaps addressing Dekraai directly, perhaps ignoring a man many hold beneath contempt, perhaps some mix of the two.
The judge in the case, Thomas Goethals, also is expected to say something. He might address Dekraai, or the nature of his crime. Or he might offer his take on a case that exposed flaws in the way justice is reached in Orange County, particularly the misuse of jailhouse informants and the way evidence is or isn’t shared by local prosecutors and police.
But between those speeches, Dekraai himself will be allowed to address the court. It’s a mandated if little known aspect of American jurisprudence; convicted killers are required to be offered a moment of public air time before they are sentenced.
Though it’s not a given that he’ll say anything, Dekraai has tried to speak out before. In June, during one of the many days of hearings related to the use of informants, Dekraai turned in his chair and told victims’ families that he was “very, very sorry.” Goethals cut him off and explained it wasn’t the time for Dekraai to speak.
Many wonder why Dekraai (or any convicted killer) should get to speak at all.
Experts say convicted defendants usually use their sentencing-day address to seek leniency from the judge. But in Dekraai’s case, the sentences are all but a lock. Goethals already ruled out the death penalty, citing misconduct by law enforcement as the reason. So it’s likely that Dekraai, if he speaks, will address something else.
Katherine Tinto, a professor at UCI School of Law, said Friday’s proceedings might come down to tradition and the need to “close a chapter in Orange County history.” And although his words may not sway the judge, Tinto added, they could offer a hint as to how Dekraai views his accountability.
It’s not at all clear how Dekraai will be received by the most important people in the courtroom — the survivors of his victims, Victoria Buzzo, 54; David Caouette,…