Victims’ Relatives Address Judge Under Marsy’s Law

Seal Beach Shootings: Guilt, Penalty Phases Of Trial Will Be Separate

– The Orange County Register, By Vik Jolly and Eric Hartley

Seal Beach salon massacre suspect Scott Dekraai will go on trial June 9 after a judge ruled Monday that two halves of his trial will be conducted months apart with different juries.

The unusual move was a relief to relatives of several of the eight people killed in Orange County’s deadliest mass shooting. The split will hasten a verdict on whether Dekraai is guilty or innocent.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals first suggested the idea of getting the “guilt phase” done soon “so members of this community would have resolution of half the battle.” A “penalty phase,” if needed, would come later.

In most death penalty cases, the same jury decides guilt or innocence and then the penalty in two phases of trial, with no break in between.

Instead, one jury will decide in June whether Dekraai, 44, is guilty. Much later, a separate jury will decide whether he should be sentenced to death, unless the judge dismisses the death penalty from the case or the first jury does not find special circumstances that make it an option. Victims’ families said they’ve been told the penalty phase could be a year away or longer.

Dekraai agreed to the split after considering past statements of victims’ families, his lawyer said.

Victims’ relatives addressed Goethals under Marsy’s Law, the state’s victims-rights law. They told the judge the delays and repeated trips to court, during which they must see Dekraai, have been devastating.

 

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