FEATURED POST

Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

Image
Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

California: Leave no evidence behind in Cooper case

Kevin Cooper
In 1983, Kevin Cooper was convicted of a brutal quadruple murder in San Bernardino County and sentenced to death.

In the years since, the chain of events that led to his conviction has come under fire from law enforcement veterans, a U.S. federal judge, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and even some of the original jurors for his trial.

"The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man," wrote Judge William Fletcher, of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a blistering dissent against the court's decision not to hear Cooper's appeal.

The discrepancies in the Cooper case are deeply disturbing. Yet all Cooper has asked for is a reprieve of his execution and a new investigation into his case, including modern DNA testing.

There is reason to believe a new investigation could clear him of the murders.

There is no reason for Gov. Jerry Brown to continue holding off on ordering a new test.

The murders for which Cooper was convicted are the stuff of nightmares. Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, and an 11-year-old house guest were hacked to death with a hatchet in their home in Chino Hills. Cooper, who had escaped from a nearby prison where he was serving a burglary sentence and was hiding in a home close by, looked like an obvious suspect.

Yet the then-8-year-old Josh Ryen, who survived being stabbed in throat, originally communicated to a social worker that he'd seen 3 or 4 white men attacking him and his family. Cooper is black.

Another potential witness told officers that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer named Lee Furrow, had clothes and a hatchet that matched descriptions of items at the murder scene. Police destroyed a pair of Furrow's bloody coveralls without testing them.

Other problems with the case, including questionable forensics, all point to the need for new testing.

Cooper came within hours of execution in 2004. One of the major reasons he's still alive is an unrelated court challenge to the state's death penalty procedures. Legal experts are anticipating a resumption of California's death penalty soon.

Our editorial board has long argued that reasonable doubts about the Cooper case should stop the state from executing him.

There's new pressure on Gov. Brown to allow advanced testing, thanks to California's presumed resumption of the death penalty and to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who recently pored over the case and argued that Cooper probably was framed by the San Bernardino sheriff's office.

Last week, California's Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, who ignored Cooper's pleas when she was state attorney general, came out in favor of new DNA testing.

The governor should do the same.

Brown's office says the case is very complex, which it is. The governor received a clemency petition from Cooper's lawyers in February 2016, and his office says it's under review.

The governor has had years to make a decision on this case. Time is running out.

Brown has been proudly opposed to the death penalty for decades. If his opposition is sincere, he'll stop hesitating. What's at stake is the life of a man who could be innocent.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Editorial, May 31, 2018


⚑ | Report an error, an omission, a typo; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; submit a piece, a comment; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!



"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

New Hampshire: Just two votes away from death penalty repeal

Lindsay Sandiford, 62, on Bali death row for 6 years, 'just wants to die'

Florida executes Bobby Joe Long

Oklahoma 'getting closer' to acquiring device necessary to carry out executions

Indonesian court sentences French drug smuggler to death

Florida: Death penalty opponents call on DeSantis to stop execution

Malaysian drug mule due to hang in Singapore gets last-minute stay of execution

Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

Japan: Death sentence finalized for man over 2015 murder of 2 children

Singapore says most drug traffickers Malaysians, will not go easy on them