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.
The Daily Mail reports that California may be about to execute an innocent man, according to five federal judges. The case of Kevin Cooper has many questioning the death penalty in California for a man that many say was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit due to “racial tension” present in the court system at the time of his trial. Cooper was convicted of murdering four people and slitting the throat of a fifth child in a horrifying murder that rocked a community. A mother, father, and two 10-year-old children were killed in the murder, while an 8-year-old boy was the only survivor. Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, who was staying at their house in the Los Angeles suburb of Chino Hills, were all killed during the horrifying attack. The Ryen’s 8-year-old son, Josh, was the sole survivor.
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.
Despite having Josh’s testimony of white suspects along with the two eye witnesses station wagon account of three white men in the family’s vehicle and Lee Farrow’s ex-wife implicating him in the crime, police turned their attention to African American Kevin Cooper, who had escaped from prison and was staying nearby with a friend. According to the website Save Kevin Cooper, the police focused all of their attention on Cooper, despite only having circumstantial evidence in a home full of blood. The prosecution relied on testimony from Josh Ryen, who initially said Cooper was not the one who killed his family but later recanted and said it was Cooper. The child’s testimony changed throughout, with him initially adamant that three white men were involved, later saying Cooper did not look like any of the men in the attack, but later changing his account in court saying Kevin Cooper was the killer. The prosecution also used bloody footprints at the scene to link Cooper to the crime, noting that the footprint was from a prison-issued boot, which only Cooper could have owned since he had recently escaped prison. However, a prison official said that the boot could have belonged to someone who was not an inmate, as anyone could get prison-issued boots. The prison official’s statements were never included in court.
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.
Cooper notes that he pleaded guilty to burglary charges because he committed those crimes — however, he says he did not murder the family, and that he has been wrongfully accused. He says he is the only person in the history of the State of California to be up for execution despite having written testimony from five federal judges stating he may be innocent.
“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.’ “
What do you think about the Kevin Cooper case? Is California about to execute a man that could potentially be innocent?
[Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo]