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Condemned California man seeks special DNA investigation

August 18, 2018
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FILE - This undated file photo provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows inmate Kevin Cooper. The California death row inmate with some high-profile supporters is asking Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint an independent special master to reinvestigate the case and oversee new DNA testing. Cooper on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 asked the Democratic governor to take the extraordinary steps that he says would show he is innocent and that law enforcement officials planted false evidence. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California death row inmate with some high-profile supporters on Friday asked Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint an independent special master to reinvestigate the case and oversee new DNA testing.

Kevin Cooper’s lawyer says the extraordinary steps would show Cooper is innocent and that law enforcement officials planted false evidence.

Cooper is awaiting execution for the 1983 Chino Hills hatchet and knife killings of four people. He escaped from a nearby minimum-security prison east of Los Angeles two days before the slayings of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica and 11-year-old neighbor Christopher Hughes.

California’s former attorney general and now U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof are among those calling for new DNA testing.

“Nothing could be more important to the integrity of our justice system than ensuring that an innocent person is not executed,” Cooper’s attorney, Norman Hile, wrote.

The 45-page letter he sent to Brown on Friday asks for “a broader innocence investigation to be overseen by a special master appointed by the governor.”

The filing came in response to the governor’s request last month for more details in Cooper’s clemency petition. The governor’s office said Friday the response was being reviewed.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos did not immediately respond Friday. Ramos has opposed additional testing and says Cooper, now 60, is indisputably guilty.

Brown was asked to order new DNA testing that Hile says would be five to six times more sensitive than the tests on evidence that implicated Cooper in 2002 and 2004.

It also claims that two witnesses recently came forward with details of separate confessions by the real killers. Hile wouldn’t provide their names or declarations “due to considerations for their personal safety.”

Hile says he also has obtained a DNA sample from a man they say was the real killer to be compared to the new DNA samples they want Brown to order as part of his clemency consideration.

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