Thursday, May 17, 2018

Kevin Cooper: Death Row: California: New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof's extraodinary commentary: (With Jessia Ma and Stuart Thompson); "Was Kevin Cooper framed for murder?" The big question: "Why is Governor Jerry Brown refusing to allow advanced DNA testing that might finally resolve the question of who committed the murders, even though Cooper’s defense would pay for it. Brown refuses to allow even advanced testing of the blond or brown hairs that were found in the victims’ hands."....This is the story of a broken justice system. It appears that an innocent man was framed by sheriff’s deputies and is on death row in part because of dishonest cops, sensational media coverage and flawed political leaders — including Democrats like Brown and Kamala Harris, the state attorney general before becoming a U.S. senator, who refused to allow newly available DNA testing for a black man convicted of hacking to death a beautiful white family and young neighbor. This was a failure at every level, and it should prompt reflection not just about one man on death row but also about profound inequities in our entire system of justice."By Nicholas Kristof With Jessia Ma and Stuart A. Thompson

COMMENTARY: "Was Kevin Cooper  framed for murder," by Nicholas Kristof, with Jessia Ma and Stuart Thompson,  published by The New York Times on May 17, 2018.

GIST: "In 1983, four people were murdered in a home in Chino Hills, Calif. The sole survivor of the attack said three white intruders had committed the murders. Then a woman told the police that her boyfriend, a white convicted murderer, was probably involved, and she gave deputies his bloody coveralls. So here’s what sheriff’s deputies did. They threw away the bloody coveralls and arrested a young black man named Kevin Cooper. He is now awaiting execution...This is the story of a broken justice system. It appears that an innocent man was framed by sheriff’s deputies and is on death row in part because of dishonest cops, sensational media coverage and flawed political leaders — including Democrats like Brown and Kamala Harris, the state attorney general before becoming a U.S. senator, who refused to allow newly available DNA testing for a black man convicted of hacking to death a beautiful white family and young neighbor. This was a failure at every level, and it should prompt reflection not just about one man on death row but also about profound inequities in our entire system of justice."

This  entire interactive  commentary can be read at:

Very informative Wikipedia entry can be read at the link below: (In part): "Kevin Cooper (born 1958) is a death row inmate currently held in California's San Quentin Prison.[1] Cooper was convicted of four murders that occurred in the Chino Hills area of California in 1983. Since his arrest, Cooper, who is African American, has become active in writing letters from prison asserting his innocence, protesting racism in the American criminal justice system, and opposing the death penalty.[2] Cooper's habeas corpus petitions have been denied, however, with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stating in 2007 that "As the district court, and all state courts, have repeatedly found, evidence of Cooper's guilt was overwhelming. The tests that he asked for to show his innocence 'once and for all' show nothing of the sort."[3] In a concurring opinion, however, Judge Margaret McKeown said she was troubled that the court could not resolve the question of Cooper's guilt "once and for all" and noted that significant evidence bearing on Cooper's culpability has been lost, destroyed or left unpursued.[3] In a dissenting opinion written in 2009, Judge William A. Fletcher began by stating: "the State of California may be about to execute an innocent man."[4] Fletcher wrote that the police may have tampered with the evidence and that the Ninth Circuit should have reheard the case en banc and should have "ordered the district judge to give Cooper the fair hearing he has never had." Five judges joined in Fletcher's dissent and five more stated that Cooper has never had a fair hearing to determine his innocence.

More from Wikipedia entry: Claims of innocence and manipulation of evidence. Cooper has continuously denied any involvement in the crimes for almost 30 years. Some arguments supporting his innocence include:
  • Multiple weapons were used in the murders, which supporters believe indicates that more than one person committed the crime, whereas the prosecution concluded that Cooper acted alone. In 2000, Professor John Ryan (a pathologist) stated that at least two people would have been needed to control the victims, a statement repeated by profiler Greg McCrary in 2013.
  • The sole survivor, Josh Ryen, had told a social worker in the emergency room that the murders were committed by 3 or 4 white men.[11] Judge Fletcher wrote, "Deputies misrepresented his recollections and gradually shaped his testimony so that it was consistent with the prosecution's theory that there was only one killer."[4]
  • Donald Gamundoy, a social worker who interviewed Josh prior to the police questioning, stated at trial that Josh had not only identified 3 attackers but specifically stated they were not Mexican or African American.[9]
  • Judge Fletcher argued that the bloody shoe-print was likely to be from a shoe different from the one Cooper would have been wearing, since James Taylor was proven to have falsely identified a different brand as being the same as the prison issued shoes.[4]
  • The shoe prints on the victim's bed sheet were only found a month after the murders after William Baird (who would later be fired for stealing heroin) acquired a pair of the prison shoes, while the footprint on the pool cover was only noticed after the officer who had sketched footprints was instructed to look again.
  • Blond hairs were found clutched in Jessica Ryen's hand.[12]
  • In the initial search of the Ryen's station wagon, no cigarette butts were found. Judge Fletcher writes, "Some of those cigarette butts could have easily been planted in the car. Moreover, after initial forensic testing, paper from a hand-rolled cigarette butt supposedly found in the station wagon was described as consumed. That same paper later "reappeared" and was offered into evidence. When the paper "reappeared," it was significantly larger than the paper in the cigarette butt that had been tested."[4] The same officers who found the cigarettes had also failed to process cigarettes from the house where Cooper had hidden.
  • Judge Fletcher suggested that since the chemical test used to detect blood also reacted to bleach, and since a previous occupant had admitted at trial to cleaning the shower and sink with bleach just prior to vacating, that the supposed blood in the shower and sink could have potentially been the bleach used by the tenant to clean up.[4]
  • Judge Fletcher writes that while a button found in the house came from a green prison jacket, "uncontradicted evidence at trial showed that Cooper was wearing a brown or tan prison-issued jacket when he escaped."[4]
  • Fingerprints of an officer who had claimed he never entered the closet where Cooper slept were recovered from the interior of the closet, and were determined to have been left the day before the evidence in the closet was officially found.[4]
  • Judge Fletcher suggested that preservatives found in the blood on the T-shirt indicated that it may have been planted (arguing that Huff ignored testing which showed that four of the alleged control samples either had DNA or were inconclusive and thus could not be legitimate controls). "If the EDTA testing already performed shows that Cooper's blood was planted on the t-shirt, or if further EDTA testing does the same thing, that showing greatly increases the likelihood that much of the evidence introduced at trial was false," Fletcher wrote.[4]
  • Judge Justin Quackenbush, in a 2010 lecture at Gonzaga University, wrote, "On June 9, a woman named Diana Roper called the Sheriff's Department to tell them that her boyfriend, Lee Furrow, had come home in the early hours on the night of June 4. He arrived in an unfamiliar station wagon with some people who stayed in the car. He changed out of his overalls, which he left on the floor of a closet. He was not wearing a t-shirt that he had been wearing earlier in the day. He left the house after about five minutes and did not return. [Roper and her father] both concluded that the overalls were spattered with blood. Roper turned the overalls over to the Sheriff's Department and told the deputy that she thought Furrow was involved in the murders. Roper later provided an affidavit stating that a bloody t-shirt found beside the road leading from the murder house had been Furrow's. It was a Fruit-of-the-Loom t-shirt with a breast pocket. Roper stated that she recognized it because she had bought it for him. She also stated that a bloody hatchet found beside the road matched a hatchet that was now missing from her garage. [...] The Sheriff's Department never tested the overalls for blood, never turned them over to Cooper or his lawyers, and threw them away in a dumpster on the day of Cooper's arraignment."[13] Phone Logs would prove that the sergeant who had retrieved them made multiple attempts to turn over the coveralls to the lead investigator, contradicting the officer's claim that he never considered it of value.[3]
  • Judge Quackenbush continued: "Furrow had been released from state prison a year earlier. He had been part of a murderous gang, but had been given a short sentence in return for turning state's evidence against the leader of the gang. The leader was sentenced to death. Furrow told friends that while he was part of the gang he killed a girl, cut up her body, and thrown her body parts into the Kern River."[13]
  • Furrow's stepmother was found by Cooper's investigator to have lived a short distance away from where the car was eventually found."
More from Wikipedia entry:  DNA evidence; "In 2001, Cooper became the first death row inmate in California to successfully request post-conviction DNA testing of evidence. The results of those DNA tests failed to exonerate him of the 1983 murders and indicated that hairs found on three of the victims were likely their own.[14] Nevertheless, it was later found that the blood vial containing Cooper's blood had a second individual's blood in it. More importantly prosecution expert Daniel Gregonis had checked Cooper's blood out for 24 hours (alongside his saliva and the bloodstain recovered from the house) without informing Cooper's attorneys, and his initials were found on the pillbox that contained the bloodstain recovered from the house. This has caused some to argue that Gregonis planted Cooper's blood in order to ensure a positive result.[4] The tests allegedly suggested that there is "strong evidence" that it was Kevin Cooper's DNA that was extracted from the following items of evidence:
  • A bloodstain found inside the Ryens' home.
  • The saliva on a hand rolled cigarette butt found inside the Ryen station wagon.
  • The saliva on a manufactured cigarette butt found inside the Ryen station wagon.
  • A bloodstain located on a t-shirt that was found beside a road some distance from the Ryen home. There is strong evidence that one of the victims, Doug Ryen, was the donor of another bloodstain found on the same t-shirt. Cooper is also consistent with being the donor of two additional blood smears and a possible donor of blood spatter on the same t-shirt. The testing of the bloodstain on the hatchet, which was one of the murder weapons, revealed that the victims Jessica Ryen, Doug Ryen, and Chris Hughes were all possible contributors to this sample. Those three victims can account for all the results detected in that mixture. Peggy Ryen and Josh Ryen cannot be excluded as possible minor contributors to this mixture as well." 
Access Kevin Cooper support site - with petition - at the following link:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to

Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.