This Man Has Waited Too Long For Justice

Kevin Cooper
By: Monica Hahn

Kevin Cooper has been on California’s death row in San Quentin prison since 1985.

But he may now finally be able to challenge his unfair, false conviction and prove his innocence. Cooper recently won the right to post-conviction DNA testing -- the first prisoner on California’s death row to do so.

Cooper was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of the Ryen family. His initial trial was completely unfair. He was denied adequate counsel, crucial evidence was destroyed, DNA testing was denied, and important evidence and witnesses weren’t presented.

For example, Josh Ryen, the 8-year-old survivor of the murders, has always maintained that three white men murdered his family, but this was never brought up in Cooper’s trial. Clumps of long blonde hair were found in the hands of the victims, obviously not belonging to an African American defendant. This evidence, too, was disregarded. Furthermore, a pair of bloody coveralls was given to police by a woman who said that her husband was involved in the murders and had been wearing the clothes at the time. But police deliberately destroyed and disposed of the evidence, and the woman’s testimony was never heard.

Cooper and his attorneys are optimistic that the DNA analysis will prove Kevin’s long-claimed innocence. But recent discoveries by Cooper’s attorneys have brought to light other problems.

Cooper’s attorneys have found out that some evidence now being tested was released -- without any valid permission -- in 1999 to a criminologist who has admitted to altering his laboratory testing results in order to implicate Cooper during his initial trial. The lawyers are suspicious, since this evidence could be tampered with in many ways.

Activists who have fought hard to win DNA testing for Cooper -- whose life depends on the outcome -- are outraged by this continued misconduct.

But Campaign members, who have hosted demonstrations and teach-ins, organized petition drives and have started a signature ad campaign for Kevin, are determined to fight until his innocence is finally proven.