Judge Thomas Goethals discusses the admissibility of previously sealed court documents related to an alleged jailhouse informant who may have assisted in the conviction of Henry Rodriguez, who has spent 15 years in prison for his role in the 1998 murder of a pregnant woman and her unborn child. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: RODRIGUEZ.0626 - 6/25/15 - PHOTO BY JOSHUA SUDOCK, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER - Henry Rodriguez, who has spent 15 years in prison for his role in the 1998 murder of a pregnant woman and her unborn child, appeared in a Santa Ana courtroom with his attorney, James Crawford, and deputy district attorneys Howard Gundy and Eric Scarbrough on Thursday to discuss alleged misuse of jailhouse informants by Orange County prosecutors in his case. Judge Thomas Goethals' decision could lead to a new trial or the outright prisoner release. Picture made at The Orange County Central Justice Center, department C45, in Santa Ana, California, on Thursday, June 25, 2015

Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals has cracked down on misuse of jailhouse informants. He threw a curve Monday to lawyers seeking removal of the District Attorney’s Office from a murder case following allegations of falsifying and withholding evidence. As he postponed the hearing until Wednesday, Goethals urged attorneys on both sides to consider an argument as to why he should or shouldn’t be removed from the case. (Joshua Sudock / File)

By Tony Saavedra / Staff Writer
Aug. 15, 2016
Updated Aug. 16, 2016 – 7:25 a.m.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals threw a curve Monday to lawyers seeking removal of the District Attorney’s Office from a murder case following allegations of falsifying and withholding evidence.

As he postponed the hearing until Wednesday, Goethals urged attorneys on both sides to consider an argument as to why he should or shouldn’t be removed from the case.

Goethals noted that two prosecutors facing allegations of wrongdoing, Larry Yellin and Michael Murray, were recently elected to serve as judges in Orange County Superior Court and soon will be his colleagues. Goethals said he believes he can be impartial, but he worries about the appearance of impropriety.

“Frankly, I’m concerned about it,” he told attorneys Monday, indicating he might step away from the hearing and send the case to Los Angeles County.

It’s unclear which way Goethals’ potential bias might lie.

On the one hand, if Goethals would be inclined to be lenient on fellow judges, his removal could be a blow to the District Attorney’s Office.

But Goethals also is the judge who booted the District Attorney’s Office from the prosecution of mass shooter Scott Dekraai, who killed eight people at a Seal Beach salon in 2011.

Last year, Goethals ruled that the D.A.’s Office could not be trusted to oversee a fair trial, noting misstatements under oath by people working for the prosecution. Since that ruling – which is under appeal – the D.A.’s office has requested Goethals be removed from at least 46 murder cases, indicating they might believe Goethals is biased against the office.

Legal experts suggested Monday that Goethals’ offer presents a dilemma.

Prosecutors are probably thinking, “He’s the guy who kicked us off the Dekraai case. We don’t want him to do it again,” said Mario Mainero, professor at Fowler School of Law at Chapman University.

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