Open Letter From CDP Progressive Caucus to CA Gov. Jerry Brown: Grant Kevin Cooper a Reprieve from Death Row Order Advanced DNA Testing
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173 Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Honorable Governor Brown:
As Executive Board officers of the Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus in the California Democratic Party, we ask you to immediately grant death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s request for a reprieve while your office authorizes an independent innocence investigation which includes scientifically up-to-date DNA testing to determine if false evidence was used against Cooper at trial. There is substantial evidence that Mr. Cooper was framed or otherwise falsely convicted, and is a victim of racial animus, dishonest law enforcement and sensational journalism. As Governor, you have the power to avoid this miscarriage of justice – we urge you to ensure that the State of California fulfills its duty to search for the truth.
For over thirty years, Mr. Cooper – who is African American – has maintained his innocence in the 1983 murder of four Chino Hills residents. In a New York Times opinion piece, “Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?”, investigative reporter Nicolas Kristof points out the sole survivor of the attack said it was three white men who committed the murders. “Then a woman told the police that her boyfriend, a white convicted murderer was probably involved, and she gave deputies his bloody overalls. So here’s what the sheriffs deputies did. They threw away the bloody overalls and arrested a young black man named Kevin Cooper.”
Under Article V, Section 8(a) of the California Constitution, we ask you to: (1) to grant Mr. Cooper a reprieve of his death sentence; (2) to undertake a complete investigation into Mr. Cooper’s case under the auspices of the Governor’s office with the goal of determining whether Mr. Cooper is innocent and whether he should be released from prison; (3) to permit Mr. Cooper’s defense team –as part of that investigation—to do all the forensic testing that it determines should be done, including that which the State has refused to permit; (4) to give Mr. Cooper access to documents that have been denied him, including from the San Bernardino County Sheriff and District Attorney’s Office and the Scripps Institute laboratory, that may prove his innocence; and (5) to pardon Mr. Cooper if the evidence shows that he is innocent or, should there remain any question as to his innocence, to instruct the San Bernardino District Attorney that if he does not retry Mr. Cooper within a reasonable time in a fair trial, the Governor will pardon him.
You have ample grounds to act: Mr. Cooper has endured more than thirty years on California’s death row, he came within three hours and 42 minutes of being executed in February 2004 for crimes he says he never committed, eleven appellate judges declared in 2009 that Mr. Cooper has never had a fair hearing to establish his innocence, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found violations of Mr. Cooper’s human rights including eight due process violations, ineffective assistance of trial counsel, an unfair appellate process and evidence of racial discrimination. Now is the time for you, Honorable Governor, to uphold the 5th and 6th amendments for due process and grant Mr. Cooper an opportunity to prove his innocence.
Executive Board Officers, Progressive Caucus, California Democratic Party
Karen Bernal, Chair
Katrina Bergstrom, Parliamentarian
Zach Denny,Vice Chair, Central California
Phillip Kim, Member at Large
Liz Lavertu, Member at Large
Marlin Medrano, Treasurer
Susie Shannon, Vice Chair, Southern California
Cari Templeton, Communications
Mark Van Landuyt, Vice Chair Northern California
Marcy Winograd, Secretary