Kevin Cooper was convicted of the 1983 murders of the Ryen family and a houseguest in Chino Hills California, a city in the southwest corner of San Bernardino County.
What came to be known as the Chino Hills Murders were exceptionally vicious and brutal: 4 people murdered using a hatchet, a knife, and an icepick. They sustained 140 wounds, 28 fractures, 2 severed fingers. There was 1 surviving victim, left for dead.
The horrific nature of the murders risked putting the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department under close scrutiny by the local community and national media.
This scrutiny risked exposing corruption within.
Discovering that Kevin Cooper had been in close proximity to the crime scene after escaping from a nearby minimum security prison, Sheriff Floyd Tidwell deceived the media and local community by announcing there was solid evidence connecting him with the murders. This was not true.
With this announcement, just four days after the murders, he successfully shifted the attention to the California Institution of Men prison, which was already embroiled in controversy.kevincooper.org
Kevin Cooper (born January 8, 1958) is an American mass murderer currently on death row at San Quentin Prison. Cooper was convicted of four murders which he committed in the Chino Hills area of California in 1983. Cooper was accused of the kidnap and rape of an underage female in Pennsylvania during a burglary attempt; and was accused of rape by a second woman in California. Since his arrest, Cooper, who is African American, has become active in writing letters from prison asserting his innocence, alleging racism in the American criminal justice system, and opposing the death penalty.
Cooper’s habeas corpus petitions have been denied. The evidence in the case of the original trial has been reviewed by the California Supreme Court, by the United States District Court and by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 2007, two judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit wrote that “As the district court and all state courts, have repeatedly found, evidence of Cooper’s guilt was overwhelming. The tests for which he asked to show his innocence ‘once and for all’ show nothing of the sort.” In a concurring opinion, however, Judge Margaret McKeown said she was troubled that the court could not resolve the question of Cooper’s guilt “once and for all” and noted that significant evidence bearing on Cooper’s culpability has been lost, destroyed or left unpursued.
In a dissenting opinion, written in 2009, Judge William A. Fletcher began by stating: “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.” Fletcher wrote that the police may have tampered with the evidence and that the Ninth Circuit Court should have reheard the case en banc and should have “ordered the district judge to give Cooper the fair hearing he has never had.” Five judges joined in Fletcher’s dissent and five more stated that Cooper has never had a fair hearing to determine his innocence.Wikipedia