A 39-year-old charged with killing his business partner in Orange County seven years ago is concerned that Orange County sheriff’s deputies put a confidential informant in his cell, which could be a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights, his attorney said Friday.
An attorney for Ed Younghoon Shin, who is charged with killing 33-year-old Christopher Smith in June of 2010, told Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals in court on Friday that he has received information indicating an informant was placed in his client’s cell. Shins’ attorney, Ed Welbourn, wanted Goethals to order more evidence to be turned over in the case.
Goethals explained to Welbourn that he cannot really do that, but reminded Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy that prosecutors are required to turn over all the evidence they can find that could be exculpatory to a defendant. Murphy said he understood that, but he has not been able to find anything backing up Shin’s claim and suggested the sole source for the information was the defendant himself.
Murphy also assured Goethals that even if does find out that Shin’s jailers put an informant in his cell that he would never use the evidence in the trial.
“We would never use it under any circumstances,” Murphy said. “It would be unavailable for any purpose.”
Murphy said he dealt with the same issue in his death penalty prosecution of Daniel Patrick Wozniak and he vowed not to use the evidence in that trial. Murphy did not direct the use of an informant in that case.
The use of informants has become a touchy topic for prosecutors after Goethals found wrongdoing in the use of the jailhouse snitches in the case against Scott Dekraai, who ultimately avoided the death penalty because of the scandal.
Murphy added “even if I get struck by lightning” and can’t prosecute Shin his office still would not use any informant in the trial.
“It’s as if it doesn’t exist,” he said.
Welbourn, however, is concerned because one of the lead investigators in the case, Sgt. Ray Werth, pleaded his Fifth Amendment rights during the most recent evidentiary hearing in the Dekraai case, prompting the prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Mike Murphy to get immunity so he could testify.
Goethals suggested to Matt Murphy that he call Mike Murphy and ask him why the decision was made to grant Werth immunity. Murphy said he would do that.
Even though Matt Murphy does not intend to use an informant in the trial, Welbourn said he still wants more digging done on the question.
“I want to confirm one way or the other,” Welbourn told City News Service. “If there is we want all the evidence and if there isn’t then that’s great, too.”
An informant might have exculpatory evidence his team could use to defend Shin, Welbourn said. But the defense attorney said he trusted Matt Murphy to not use an informant in the trial.
“There were times during the Dekraai hearings they were saying this is everything we have and then another special handling log or something comes out,” Welbourn said.
–City News Service