Friday, March 4, 2016

Stop the Execution of Kevin Cooper!

Kevin Cooper is an African-American man who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the 1983 murders of a white family in Chino Hills, California.  He is on Death Row, and the State of California intends to execute Mr. Cooper.

Thirty years ago, Kevin Cooper was arrested and tried amid intense racial hatred,  a wave of racial hatred that included acts such as a monkey being hanged in effigy outside the courthouse with a sign saying “Kill the Nigger.”  Mr. Cooper has never received a fair hearing on his claims of innocence.

In 2009, referring to Mr. Cooper’s case, five federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals signed a 82 page dissenting opinion that begins: “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.”  Commenting on post-conviction legal proceedings in Mr. Cooper’s case, the five federal appellate judges said: “There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing. ... The district court impeded and obstructed Cooper’s attorneys at every turn. [T]he court imposed unreasonable conditions, ... refused discovery that should have been available as a matter of course; limited testimony that should not have been limited; and found facts unreasonably, based on a truncated and distorted record.”

Law student members of the National Lawyers Guild are circulating an open letter that they sent earlier today to California Governor Jerry Brown calling for clemency for Kevin Cooper. They have requested that it be circulated broadly, including posting on websites. Here is their letter (for more information on Kevin Cooper's case, go to


March 4, 2016

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Governor’s Office
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Clemency for Kevin Cooper

Dear Governor Brown:

We, the undersigned student chapters of the National Lawyers Guild, representing law students from seven law schools across California, are writing to request that you grant clemency to Kevin Cooper. As you are aware, Mr. Cooper is a prisoner condemned to California's Death Row, and who five appellate judges of the Ninth Circuit have stated stated that he may be innocent. 

Please exercise your clemency authority under the California Constitution, grant a reprieve of Mr. Cooper’s death sentence and conduct a thorough investigation of his case, including forensic testing and review of the critical evidence withheld from Mr. Cooper's defense team by the prosecution at his trial. There must be a full and fair examination of the issues surrounding Mr. Cooper’s case.

Our request for Mr. Cooper’s clemency is based upon the following facts:

  1. In 2009, eleven appellate judges of the Ninth Circuit stated Mr. Cooper did not receive a fair hearing on his claims of innocence, including five judges who stated Mr. Cooper may be innocent;

  1. In September 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a report in Mr. Cooper’s case finding significant violations of Mr. Cooper’s human rights, including eight violations of Mr. Cooper’s due process rights, ineffective assistance of trial counsel, an unfair appellate proceeding and potential racial discrimination in his case;

  1. The prosecution has control of crucial evidence that could exonerate Mr. Cooper, but Mr. Cooper’s counsel have been unable to test that evidence properly. Current DNA technology may determine once and for all if Mr. Cooper is innocent;

  1. The police destroyed crucial evidence in Mr. Cooper’s case, including bloody coveralls worn the night of the murders by another individual, and a blue shirt with blood on it found near the crime scene that may have been discarded by one of the actual killers;

  1. The sole surviving victim identified the killers as three white or Latino men. Mr. Cooper is African-American; and lastly,

  1.  Three white men were seen in a bar near the crime scene on the night of the murders, one of whom wore coveralls covered in blood.

Thus, we urge you to ensure that Mr. Cooper's case is re-examined in light of all the available factual information, which convinces us that there is a basis for the State of California to not execute Kevin Cooper, and ultimately grant him a pardon as requested in his Petition for Executive Clemency submitted to you on February 17, 2016.

Yours truly,

Rae Raucci, Richard Tan and Tarina Yasmoothr
San Francisco Law School NLG Chapter

And on behalf of:

John F. Flanagan
UC Berkeley School of Law, NLG Chapter

Gregory Jackson
Golden Gate University School of Law, NLG Chapter

Stacy Kowalski and Sean Larson
Hastings College of the Law, NLG Chapter
Joseph O’Neill and Alexander Thayer
University of San Francisco School of Law, NLG Chapter

Amy L. Tannenbaum
Stanford Law School, NLG Chapter

Laura Zuniga-Huizar
Thomas Jefferson School of Law, NLG Chapter

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