Sentenced to death
case under review
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday ordered an independent inquiry into the conviction of death row inmate Kevin Cooper, who says he was charged with the stabbing deaths of four people, including two children, at a home in suburb of Los Angeles in 1983.
Cooper, 63, has sought clemency from the governor since 2016.
In his executive order, Newsom said he “takes no position” on Cooper’s guilt or innocence or whether to grant him clemency.
Newsom has appointed a law firm to review court records and all the facts and evidence of the case, including those that do not appear in the trial and appeal records, as well as the results of previously DNA tests. ordered by the governor.
The order said testing was complete, but Cooper’s attorneys and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office have “very different views” as to whether they support Cooper’s claims.
Cooper’s attorney, Norman Hile, called the order gratifying.
“We are confident that a thorough examination will show that Kevin Cooper is innocent and should be released from prison,” he said.
Cooper was convicted of a 1983 attack in Chino Hills, east of Los Angeles. Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and their 8-year-old son, Joshua, were attacked in their sleep along with an 11-year-old neighbor, Christopher Hughes, who was a guest of the house. Investigators said they were stabbed more than 140 times with an ice pick, knife and hatchet.
Joshua’s throat was cut, but he survived.
San Bernardino County prosecutors said previous DNA tests had shown Cooper, who escaped from prison two days before the murders, was with the Ryens and smoked cigarettes in the stolen Ryens station wagon, and that Cooper’s blood and the blood of at least one victim was on a T-shirt found on the side of a road leading away from the scene of the murders.
Cooper claimed investigators planted his blood on the T-shirt.