Kevin Cooper, now 60, remains on death row even though the judge in his case admits he did not commit the murder, and that he was framed by police.
The horrible multiple murder occurred in 1983, and Cooper was quickly accused of the crimes. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1985.
Police claimed Cooper brutally murdered 4 people in Chino Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles.
The victims were Douglas and Peggy Ryen, as well as their 10-year-old daughter Jessica, and a 10-year-old Chris Hughes, who had been staying with the family the night they were murdered.
8-year-old Josh Ryen was also attacked, but he survived having his throat cut.
Jessica Ryen died with a clump of light hair in her hands, not black like Cooper’s hair. Her brother Josh told investigators the attackers were 3 or 4 white men, not black like Cooper.
These details did not matter to police or the jury that convicted Cooper. At the time of the murders, Cooper had escaped from a minimum security prison, so police decided to frame him for the crimes.
Not long after the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department announced they had an African American man as a suspect, someone hung a stuffed monkey outside of the courthouse, along with a sign that said “Kill the N*****!”
According to The NY Times, at least 10 other federal judges have also expressed concerns about Cooper’s conviction.
There is clear evidence that police tampered with the evidence in the case.
When Cooper’s attorneys asked for DNA testing on a T-shirt believed to be the killer’s, the lab found Cooper’s blood on the shirt — but they also found the blood had test tube preservative in it! The only conclusion is that the blood actually came from blood that was drawn and kept in a test tube.
The Times also reported on multiple reports that the crime was not likely committed by Cooper:
A woman told the police (and her statements were later backed up by her sister) that a housemate, a convicted murderer, had shown up with others late on the night of the murders in blood-spattered overalls and driving a station wagon resembling one stolen from the Ryens’ home. The women said the housemate was no longer wearing the T-shirt he had on earlier in the evening — the same kind as found near the murders.
A hatchet like one of the murder weapons was missing from the man’s tool chest, and a friend of his confessed to a fellow prisoner that he had participated in the killings. The women gave the bloody overalls to the police — who threw them out, apparently because they didn’t fit their narrative that Cooper was the killer.
Cooper’s conviction was even upheld after 5 federal judges issued their opinion stating Cooper did not receive a fair trial.
This 2009 opinion stated:
“There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing. The district court impeded and obstructed Cooper’s attorneys at every turn. [T]he court imposed unreasonable conditions, refused discovery that should have been available as a matter of course; limited testimony that should not have been limited; and found facts unreasonably, based on a truncated and distorted record. Public confidence in the proper administration of the death penalty depends on the integrity of the process followed by the state… So far as due process is concerned, twenty-four years of flawed proceedings are as good as no proceedings at all.”
“He is on death row because the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department framed him,” the judge, William A. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, declared in a 2013 critique delivered in a distinguished lecture series.
Despite the judge in the case stating the prosecution and the Sheriff’s office deliberately destroyed, tampered with and concealed from the defense key evidence that was never heard by the jury, Cooper still sits on death row while police didn’t even try to find the actual murderers.
This case is a massive joint failure of law enforcement and the judicial system.