Death Row Defense Team Challenges Probe of Kevin Cooper Murder Conviction, Maintains Law Enforcement ‘Framed’ Man 38 Years Ago

By The Vanguard Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA – The defense team in a high profile murder case has charged it was “shocked” by the CA Parole Board’s agreement last week that the investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s conviction in the 1983 stabbing deaths of four people in their LA home  was “extensive and conclusive.”

“Kevin Cooper has suffered imprisonment as a death row inmate for more than 38 years for a gruesome crime he did not commit. We are therefore extremely disappointed by the special counsel’s report to the Board of Parole Hearings and disagree strongly with its findings,” said a statement from Cooper’s defense team at Orrick law. Senior defense attorney is Norman Hile.

“The report,” said the defense, “failed to address that critical issue. The evidence when viewed in this light reveals that Kevin Cooper is innocent of the Ryen/Hughes murders, and that he was framed by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s

But, according to news reports last week, an independent review, ordered by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021, found Cooper’s guilt was “extensive and conclusive.”

Now Vice President Kamala Harris and reality star Kim Kardashian were among those urging the probe.

Newsom did not take a position on Cooper’s guilt or innocence, or whether to grant him clemency. Newsom imposed a moratorium on executions in 2019. 

Cooper, now 65, and originally set to be executed in 2004, insisted he was framed by investigators who planted evidence. 

“Most fundamentally, we are shocked that the governor seemingly failed to conduct a thorough review of the report that contains many misstatements and omissions and also ignores the purpose of a legitimate innocence investigation, which is to independently determine whether Mr. Cooper’s conviction was a product of prosecutorial misconduct,” argued the statement from Orrick.

The defense added, “The special counsel’s investigation ordered by Governor Newsom in May 2021 was not properly conducted and is demonstrably incomplete. It failed to carry out the type of thorough investigation required to explore the extensive evidence that Mr. Cooper was wrongfully convicted.”

In its criticism of the findings, the defense noted, “Among other things, the investigation failed to even subpoena and then examine the files of the prosecutors and interview the individuals involved in the prosecution.”

“For unknown reasons and resulting in the tragic and clearly erroneous conclusion that he reached, the special counsel failed to follow the basic steps taken by all innocence investigations that have led to so many exonerations of the wrongfully convicted,” the defense added.

In the statement released by Orrick, the firm charged the special counsel report told the parole board it “can and will ignore Brady violations, destruction of exculpatory evidence, planted evidence, racial prejudice, prosecutorial malfeasance and ineffective assistance of trial counsel…none of these Constitutional violations matter or will be considered and we have no obligation to investigate these claims.”

The defense team said it has “already uncovered seven prosecutorial violations of Brady v. Maryland during Mr. Cooper’s prosecution…one of the likely killers has confessed to three different parties that he, rather than Mr. Cooper, was involved in (the murders), and there is significant evidence of racial bias in Mr. Cooper’s prosecution.”

“(W)e cannot understand how Mr. Cooper was not declared wrongfully convicted,” concluded the defense, noting, “The special counsel specifically declined to address ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial or the effect of race discrimination,” urging the governor to “follow through on his word and obtain a true innocence investigation.”

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