SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Thirty-three years ago, a San Diego County jury convicted Kevin Cooper of the brutal murders of Doug Ryen, Peggy Ryen, 10-year-old Jessica Ryen, 11-year-old Chris Hughes, and the attempted murder of 8-year-old Josh Ryen.
Cooper’s case was reviewed in detail by the California Supreme Court, who determined the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office agreed in 2001 to give Cooper the benefit of post-conviction DNA testing. Cooper’s own DNA expert participated in the selection of the items to be tested. The defense expert selected items that he represented had the best chance of excluding Cooper as the perpetrator of these horrific crimes.
DNA testing was conducted in 2001 and 2002. Although Cooper’s defense team claimed the DNA testing would show his innocence, it proved the exact opposite. Rather than exonerating Cooper, the results of the testing proved Cooper was in the Ryen home at the time of the murders, that he smoked cigarettes in their station wagon after he stole it, and that his blood and the blood of at least one victim was on a t-shirt found by the side of a road leading away from the murders.
Cooper’s execution was stayed in 2004 because he represented once again that a simple scientific test, and further examination of some of the evidence, would show he was innocent. Again, Cooper was given the benefit of additional scientific testing and expert examination of physical evidence collected in the case.
Despite Cooper’s claims that these tests and examination would demonstrate his innocence, a reviewing judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California determined that Cooper alone was responsible for these terrible murders.
“The guilt or innocence of any defendant charged with murder should be determined by a jury in a court of law where the rules of evidence apply, not by an uninformed or deliberately misleading editorial in the New York Times,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos.
Cooper now requests that “Touch DNA” testing be performed on one of the murder weapons, the hatchet, the hatchet sheath, the t-shirt and the prison button. These items were all collected by law enforcement, examined by experts and entered into evidence at trial. They were sent into the deliberation room without restriction, as the trial took place decades before the advent of Touch DNA testing. The hatchet, button and t-shirt were subjected to serological testing in 1983-84 and DNA testing in 2002. Additionally, the hatchet and protective sheath were touched by the owners of the hideout house, their families, visitors and guests whenever the hatchet was used to chop firewood. Consequently, many people have touched the exhibits outside of laboratory conditions. DNA data bases, unlike fingerprint data bases, contain the profiles of certain convicted felons, but not law-abiding citizens. Therefore, Touch DNA testing cannot provide relevant information in this case and cannot exonerate Cooper as claimed. It’s simply another attempt to avoid punishment.
Laws and procedures afford convicted defendants the opportunity to request post-conviction DNA testing. Cooper has already received the benefit of post-conviction scientific testing several times. Each time the testing has shown his claims of innocence are false and instead confirm the overwhelming evidence of his guilt.
“The families of the victims and the surviving victim have waited patiently for thirty-five years for justice in this case,” said District Attorney Ramos. “They have endured not only the loss of their loved ones, but also the repeated and false claims from Cooper and his propaganda machine designed to undermine public confidence in the just verdict.”
The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office is opposed to any clemency or further testing for Cooper based on continued distortions and misrepresentations of the facts in this case, and asks California Governor Edmund G. Brown to respect the decisions of the jury, trial judge, California Supreme Court, United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, all of whom have concluded that the evidence in this case overwhelmingly demonstrates Cooper’s guilt. Further delay only mocks the criminal justice system and the victims and their families in their long-lasting grief, as well as the will of the voters who enacted Proposition 66.
Today, the District Attorney’s Office is filing a formal opposition to Kevin Cooper’s request for clemency with the Governor’s Office. The entire document will be released by the District Attorney’s Office later this week.