If all goes as expected, the worst mass killer in Orange County history, Scott Dekraai, will be sentenced Friday, Sept. 22, to eight terms of life without parole, one term each for the people he fatally shot in Seal Beach six years ago.
But the sentence comes with a relatively high price tag after a judge rejected the death penalty and concluded local prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies had engaged in misconduct, according to records and interviews.
As of Sept. 6, the Dekraai case has cost taxpayers at least $2.5 million, according to an analysis by the Southern California News Group. That estimate would make the case more than twice as expensive as an average death penalty case – $1.08 million – from the date of arrest to sentencing, according to a 2011 study by a Loyola Law School professor and a senior federal appellate court judge.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which said it did not track what it spent to prosecute Dekraai, noted it is more concerned with justice than with costs.
“The OCDA exists to pursue truth and justice for the people and does not put a price on either,” said spokesperson Michelle Van Der Linden. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has argued the misconduct findings are misguided and incorrect.
Whether all the money in the Dekraai case was well spent or necessary may depend on your point of view. Prosecutors wanted Dekraai to be put to death. The public defender wanted the result that was achieved: life without parole. Even with higher costs, the case opened a window on what the courts found to be systemic abuse of defendants’ civil rights.
The $2.5 million estimate covers only part of the actual costs. Other expenses, such as prosecutor salaries and costs incurred when the state took over the case, are either unknown, not compiled or undisclosed.
Dekraai case estimated costs
Assistant public defender Scott Sanders – $842,635
50 percent of his total compensation, adjusted yearly, for five years and 10 months
Defense co-chairs – $174,278
10 percent of the salaries, adjusted yearly, for attorneys Lisa Kopelman, Seth Bank and Sara Ross
Court full days – $672,960
96 full days at $7,010, an average cost provided by the Judicial Council of California
Court half days – $70,100
20 half days at an average of $3,505
Grand Jury – $370,373
Amount paid by Orange County to the Grand Jury for an investigation into the informant scandal, according to the county auditor-controller