Saturday 29th May 2021
Doubts about family massacres
California is reopening the Kevin Cooper case
The African American Kevin Cooper is said to have stabbed a family in cold blood while escaping from prison. With doubts about his guilt, his execution was suspended just hours before the execution in 2004. Now California’s governor wants to re-examine the case.
California’s governor has ordered an independent investigation into the death row of a death-row African-American who has protested his innocence for decades. Governor Gavin Newsom said “questions have arisen about the evidence” presented in the Kevin Cooper trial. A law firm is said to be investigating the case with the California Release Committee.
Cooper had been sentenced to death for four murders. His execution was suspended a few hours before the execution in 2004. Previously, prominent death penalty opponents in the USA such as civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the Council of Europe had unsuccessfully appealed to then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to pardon Cooper. Subsequent governors ordered new DNA testing using more modern technology.
Governor Newson has now ordered a “full” review of Cooper’s trial and appeals process, old records and evidence, and recent DNA tests, in order to determine the convict’s pardon.
Witnesses saw white men smeared with blood
In 1985, a jury found Cooper guilty of killing a couple, their ten-year-old daughter, and their eleven-year-old boyfriend in June 1983. The couple’s younger son survived.
Imprisoned for robbery at the time, Cooper had recently fled the prison in Chino Hills, east of Los Angeles. According to the verdict, he wanted to use the family’s car as a getaway vehicle. Cooper had always protested his innocence. He had to admit that the DNA of a hair at the scene was his, but said the police had placed the hair there to pin the murder on him.
At the time, several witnesses testified that they had seen three white men in blood-smeared clothing who had driven away from the family home in a stolen car on the night of the crime. As the Spiegel confirms, the murders were carried out with a knife and an ax. The couple’s eight-year-old son was the only one to survive with a slit throat. The boy said three Latinos carried out the murders. Instead, the investigators arrested Cooper.
The now 63-year-old Cooper and his defense attorneys accuse police of placing false evidence and destroying or altering references to other suspects.
On the suspension of Cooper’s execution, he was denied the right to appeal. Thereupon five judges warned in a written contradiction that the state of California was on the verge of “executing an innocent man”.