Death Row DNA Testing Appeal Rejected

Kevin Cooper

Death row inmate Kevin Cooper lost his bid to allow retesting of DNA in an effort to bolster his claims that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s department manipulated evidence that might show he was framed.  The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal rejected Cooper’s petition Thursday.  Cooper questioned the credibility of police work and forensic evidence in his case.

Cooper was sentenced to death in 1985 on four counts of murder.  In the past 27 years  his case has been up and down state and federal courts on appeal.  The most recent appeal has been Cooper’s suit challenging state court denial of his request to get added DNA testing.  He alleged that he is the target of a long-running conspiracy involving members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office and others to manipulate evidence.

A state court judge in 2010 reviewed his claims and has rejected Cooper’s assertion that the prosecution or other public officials tampered with evidence.  The court also rejected the notion that a different DNA testing method would produce different results.

Rather than go to the California Supreme Court, Cooper took his case to the federal court, alleging he was framed and evidence manipulated.

He claimed officials at the scene of the crime destroyed blood-spattered coveralls belonging to a different potential suspect and withheld evidence of a blood-stained shirt, planted incriminating shoe prints, a hatchet sheath, cigarettes and a button and manipulated the testimony of the surviving victim.

In 1983, Cooper escaped from a minimum-security prison in Chino where he was serving a term for two burglaries in Los Angeles.  Less than a week later he attacked a family next door to a vacant house where he had been hiding.  Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica, and a friend who spent the night, 11-year-old Christopher Hughes, were discovered by Hughes’ father.  They had been chopped with a hatchet, sliced with a knife and stabbed with an ice-pick.  Only the Ryen’s 8-year-old son survived, even though his throat had been cut.

Among the allegations of evidence manipulation cited by Judge William Fletcher in an earlier opinion included: use of multiple weapons suggest more than one perpetrator; the sole survivor told an emergency room social worker the murders were by three or four white men.  Cooper is black.

Blond hairs were found clutched in Jessica Ryen’s hand and a bloody shoe-print was likely from a shoe different from the one Cooper would have been wearing.  Cooper testified at his trial and admitted he had hidden in the vacant house but denied he was involved in the murders.

Judge Margaret McKeown wrote the opinion rejecting Cooper’s appeal.  She was joined by Judges Ronald Gould and Richard Tallman.

Case:  Cooper v. Ramos, No. 11-57144

Photo Source:  Liberation News




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