Posted by Edmond Geary | Posted in Law enforcement, Murder, Police corruption, Violent crimes, Wrongful Convictions | Posted on 25-01-2011
Kevin Cooper was convicted of murdering a family in 1983. As his execution approaches, not only have serious questions have been raised about the evidence used to convict him but some federal appeal judges have accused police of framing him for the murders.
Doug and Peggy Ryen were stabbed to death along with their 10-year-old daughter and 11-year-old houseguest. The 8-year-old son, Josh, survived. Doug initially told investigators the perpetrators were three white people. But at trial, he said he had seen only one person, who wore his hair in an Afro. Kevin Cooper is black.
Cooper had walked away from a minimum security where he was serving a burglary sentence and hidden in an empty house 100 yards from the crime scene at the Ryen’s home. The police decided he committed the crime alone.
The weapons used in the murders included an ice pick, a hatchet and one or two knives. Not only were there five occupants to overpowered by the killer or killers but Doug Ryen, the father, was a former Marine who was 200 lbs. and had a loaded rifle nearby. How could Kevin Cooper, alone, have accomplished such feats? That’s what ten judges on the Ninth Circuit United States Court of Appeals wanted to know.
Four of those judges joined Judge William Fletcher’s one-hundred page opinion in dissenting to the Court’s decision to deny a rehearing of Cooper’s appeal. Six other judges also wrote separate dissents to the Court’s majority decision. Judge Fletcher not only found the evidence to support Cooper’s conviction inconsistent and lacking, he accused the police of framing Cooper for the murders.
Judge Fletcher said the police are under heavy pressure to solve high-profile crimes. When they think they know who committed the crime, they sometimes plant evidence to help the prosecution to result in a conviction. In this case, Judge Fletcher highlighted a number of problems in the evidence in the case.
Cooper’s blood was found on a beige T-shirt left at the scene of the murders, but the blood was then found to contain a preservative, the kind used by police when they keep blood in test tubes. After that a scientist discovered that a sample of from the test tube of Cooper’s blood which police held contained blood from more than one person. This indicated to Judge Fletcher and Cooper’s lawyers that someone with access to police evidence removed blood and then refilled the tube with someone else’s blood.
There was also evidence that police ignored. Two women told police that one of their housemates, a convicted murderer, had appeared with several other people late on the night of the murders wearing blood-spattered overalls and driving a station wagon similar to the one stolen from Ryen family. The man was no longer wearing a beige T-shirt he had been wearing earlier in the evening, the same kind of T-shirt found at the murder scene. That man also had a hatchet missing from his tool area, a hatchet that resembled the one found at the murder scene. The women gave the blood-spattered overalls to the police for testing, but the police threw them away. The police had decided that Cooper was the one they wanted.
Now that the federal appellate court has declined to intervene to stop Cooper’s execution, only California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger can stop it.