Kevin Cooper Death Row: Five Federal Judges Say California Is Set To Execute An Innocent Man

Tara West

Kevin Cooper has been on death row in California for 30 years and is set to be the next person executed by the state. Cooper was convicted of murdering a mother, father, and two 10-year-old children in a crime that horrified prosecutors in 1983. However, the execution is drawing some criticism, as five federal judges say that Kevin Cooper may be innocent and that evidence suggests that the man may not have committed the terrible murder. Despite an unprecedented 103-page dissent letter signed by five federal judges in the Kevin Cooper appeal case, noting that "the State of California may be about to execute an innocent man," the lethal injection is still scheduled to take place unless Governor Jerry Brown intervenes.

Immediately following the murder, Josh told police that three white or light-skinned Latino men had killed his family and slit his throat. The description of white or light-skinned Latinos was also confirmed from witness reports that three white men were seen driving a station wagon near the scene of the crime. The Ryen's station wagon had been stolen after the murder, leading police to believe the men seen in the station wagon were the murderers. Additionally, the ex-wife of a white supremacist, Lee Furrow, says that her ex-husband may have been involved in the Chino Hills murder of the Ryen family. She told police that her ex-husband had left a pair of bloody pants at her home following the murder, and that a hatchet that belonged to Farrow was missing from the home. The ex-wife gave police the bloody pants, but the authorities never tested them for DNA.

In addition to witness accounts that say white men were responsible for the murder, not Kevin Cooper, blood evidence of two individuals was also found at the scene that did not match that of Cooper. Therefore, when Kevin Cooper appealed his conviction, five federal judges claimed that Cooper may be innocent and wrote a 103-page dissent letter to the State of California, noting that they were about to execute an innocent man.

"I am the only person in the history of the state to have five federal circuit judges say that 'the state of California may be about to execute an innocent man. I'm not asking America as a whole, or any one person in particular, to believe me. Forget what I say. I'm asking people to believe those [judges]. When I was convicted of burglary, I pled guilty to those, because I did them.' "

[Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo]