AFRICANGLOBE – Unless California Governor Jerry Brown intervenes, the state of California will be executing Kevin Cooper on February 10.
Cooper has been on death row for over 30 years. Since his conviction, five federal circuit judges have ruled him innocent, saying the prosecution never gave him a fair trial. He’s exhausted all of his appeals, and short of an intervention from Gov. Brown, Kevin Cooper will be dead in a week.
“I am the only person in the history of the state to have five federal circuit judges say that ‘the state of California may be about to execute an innocent man,’” Cooper said in an interview with NBC News.
In 1983, four people — including two children — were brutally murdered in Chino Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles. Douglas and Peggy Ryen and their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, were hacked and stabbed to death, along with 10-year-old Chris Hughes, who was staying at the Ryen house that night. 8-year-old Joshua Ryen survived the attack despite having his throat slashed. Ryen initially told investigators that the attackers were three white or Latino men, prompting police to put out a bulletin alerting police to be on the lookout for three “white or Mexican males.”
Eyewitness accounts also suggested multiple men carried out the attack. That night, a neighbor reported seeing three men drive in the opposite direction of the Ryen home, which was on a dead-end street, in a station wagon. The Ryen’s station wagon was stolen that night.
Records kept by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also include testimony from a woman named Diana Roper, who feared her ex-husband, Lee Furrow, may have been involved in the murders. Furrow, who already had a prior murder conviction, left blood-spattered overalls at Roper’s house that night, and his hatchet was missing. Even though Roper gave the bloody pants to deputies, the pants were thrown away in a dumpster, rather than tested.
However, prosecutors zeroed in on Kevin Cooper instead, since Cooper had escaped from a nearby minimum-security facility prior to the murders and hid in a house that overlooked the Ryens’ home. Cooper had been doing time for burglary charges — which he had already confessed to.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors rigged the process to suggest Cooper’s guilt, according to five federal judges from California’s 9th Circuit. Even though Joshua Ryen had told investigators three men attacked his family, he later changed his tune during Cooper’s trial to say Cooper was the culprit. However, Ryen’s testimony was unsworn, meaning he wouldn’t be committing perjury had he been lying on the stand, and prosecutors refused to let Cooper’s attorneys cross-examine him.
Prosecutors also claimed a shoeprint left at the scene was from a prison-issued shoe that wasn’t available to the general public. But the warden at Cooper’s prison said that claim was false — a claim prosecutors omitted during the trial. Additionally, a blood sample taken from the murder scene, which the prosecution claimed belonged to Cooper, had the DNA of two separate people when it was actually tested.
In 2009, all five judges on California’s 9th Circuit admonished the prosecution for railroading Cooper. “There is no way to say this politely,” the judges wrote. “The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing.”
Kevin Cooper maintains that if he is executed on February 10, the state of California will be committing “murder.” He adds that he’s only on death row because the criminal justice system is biased against the poor.
“The only people who are on death row are poor people,” he says. “No matter what their culture, or their skin color, or their religion, we’re all poor.”
A recently-launched CREDO Action petition is calling on Governor Brown to halt Cooper’s execution. Click below to sign it.
Halt Kevin Cooper’s Execution
By: Tom Cahill