Will Scott Dekraai, the man accused of the deadliest mass murder in Orange County history, avoid the death penalty?
Voters will decide.
The length and nature of Dekraai's trial will depend on the result of Proposition 34, the Nov. 6 ballot measure proposing to abolish California's death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
On Friday morning Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals told a Santa Ana courtroom packed with family members and friends of those killed in the Oct. 12 salon massacre in sleepy Seal Beach that the "logistics" of Dekraai's trial will be determined by the election's result.
Goethals said Dekraai will face a jury as soon as possible. However, he added, the passage of Prop. 34—or its defeat—will affect that timeline.
Goethals agreed Friday to reschedule the pretrial to Jan. 25 and leave the March 25 trial date unchanged until after the election.
If the death penalty is repealed, the trial date set for March 25 is a "realistic" one, prosecutor Scott Simmons said after the hearing.
But if Prop. 34 is defeated, the defense would need more time to prepare for the trial because it would include a second phase to determine whether Dekraai deserves the death penalty.
The situation prompted Bethany Webb, sister of victim Laura Webb, to come out in favor of the death penalty ban.
This is "not about forgiveness," she told reporters Friday. A death penalty case would keep Dekraai in court for years. If that aspect of the prosecution was dropped, Dekraii would soon face a jury—and a sentence.
But others are not advocating for or against the proposition.
Paul Wilson, husband of shooting victim Christy Wilson, said he will be present to represent his wife at every hearing for Dekraai regardless of what voters decide.
A few days past the one-year anniversary of the shooting, seeing the man suspected in the killings has become no easier, said Chelsea Huff, Michelle Fournier's daughter.
When Dekraai, wearing an orange jumpsuit, was led into the courtroom Friday by a deputy, the sight of him inspired that "same sickening feeling" as it had at previous hearings, Huff said.
Some in the courtroom donned a shirt or pin to display their support for the victims. Butch Fournier, brother of Dekraai's ex-wife Michelle Fournier, was among those wearing blue T-shirts inscribed with "Seal Beach" and "support in love."