Senator Kamala Harris: California should re-test DNA of condemned inmate – Two previous DNA tests concluded inmate was the killer

In this July 31, 1983, file photo, Kevin Cooper, center, a suspect in connection with the slashing death of four people in Chino, is escorted to a car for transport to San Bernadino from Santa Barbara, Calif., after he was arrested by police at Santa Cruz Island. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris says California's governor should allow advanced DNA testing that advocates say could exonerate a death row inmate, Friday, May 18, 2018. The 60-year-old inmate was convicted of the 1983 Los Angeles-area hatchet and knife killings of four people. Kevin Cooper's clemency request is being reviewed by Gov. Jerry Brown's office. Two previous DNA tests concluded Cooper was the killer. California hasn't executed anyone since 2006. (AP Photo/File)

By DON THOMPSON,  Associated Press  SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) 05/19 — California’s governor should allow more sensitive DNA testing that advocates say could exonerate a death row inmate, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris said Friday.

“As a firm believer in DNA testing, I hope the governor and the state will allow for such testing in the case of Kevin Cooper,” Harris, a former state attorney general and San Francisco prosecutor who opposes the death penalty, said in a statement.

Cooper, 60, is awaiting execution for the 1983 Chino Hills hatchet and knife killings of four people. He escaped from a nearby minimum-security prison east of Los Angeles two days before the slayings of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica and 11-year-old neighbor Christopher Hughes.

In this Feb. 3, 2004, file photo, musician Jonathan Richman, left, joins a group of anti-death penalty advocates attending a rally in downtown San Francisco. Kevin Cooper, 60, is still awaiting execution for the 1983 Chino Hills hatchet and knife killings of four people. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris says California’s governor should allow advanced DNA testing that advocates say could exonerate a death row inmate, Friday, May 18, 2018. The 60-year-old inmate was convicted of the 1983 Los Angeles-area hatchet and knife killings of four people. Kevin Cooper’s clemency request is being reviewed by Gov. Jerry Brown’s office. Two previous DNA tests concluded Cooper was the killer. California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

 

Two previous DNA tests concluded Cooper was the killer. A piece by New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof suggesting Cooper was framed sparked Harris’s comments. Kristof’s column labels Harris one of the “flawed political leaders” he blames for blocking the new DNA testing while she was attorney general.

A San Diego judge in 2011 blocked Cooper’s request for a third round of DNA testing. Cooper says he was framed and that more sensitive DNA tests on items including a T-shirt and a speck of blood on a paint chip would prove his innocence. But the judge ruled he failed to show why more DNA tests are needed.

Cooper’s request for clemency is under review by Gov. Jerry Brown’s office, said spokesman Evan Westrup. Those requests “are thoroughly and diligently reviewed” and will determine the next step, he said.

California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006.

The only survivor — the Ryens’ grievously wounded 8-year-old son — said three white intruders committed the crimes, Kristof wrote, while a woman told police that her white convicted murderer boyfriend was probably involved and turned over his bloody coveralls. Kristof says investigators destroyed the coveralls and arrested Cooper, a young black man, even though blond or brown hairs were found in the victims’ hands.

Cooper’s defense says it would pay for the new DNA testing.

https://www.apnews.com/c4c25ea6e3df446e9bd1ef9269a150c1/US-Senator:-California-should-test-DNA-of-condemned-inmate

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