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The Chino Hills Murders and the Framing of Kevin Cooper
Kevin Cooper was convicted of the brutal murders of a Chino Hills, California family and a young house guest in 1985 and has been on death row at San Quentin ever since. In his new explosive expose, SCAPEGOAT, investigative journalist J. Patrick O’Connor reveals how the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office of San Bernardino County framed Cooper for these horrific murders. Two days before the murders of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 11-year-old Christopher Hughes, Cooper escaped from a nearby prison and holed up in a vacant house 125 yards below the murdered family’s hilltop house. Two days after the San Bernardino sheriff’s department established that Cooper had been hiding there, it locked in on him as the lone assailant despite numerous eye witness reports that implicated three, young white men as the perpetrators. From that day forward, the sheriff’s department discarded information that pointed at other perpetrators, destroyed evidence that exculpated Cooper, and planted evidence that implicated him. “The justice system has failed him at almost every turn in his long, drawn-out appeal process,” O’Connor said. “If it were not for a court-ordered moratorium on executions in California over the lethal injection controversy, Cooper – with no appeals remaining – would have been executed by now.” The moratorium is expected to remain in place until at least the beginning of 2015. SCAPEGOAT provides a rare direct examination of the broken justice system in the United States where homicide detectives and district attorneys all too often become blinded by their goal of winning convictions rather than searching for justice for both the victims and the accused. The Kevin Cooper case, as Judge William Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit says, is a prime example of justice gone begging. At Gonzaga University School of Law on April 12, 2010, Judge Fletcher delivered a lecture on the subject of the death penalty, in which he said that the problems with the administration of the death penalty are widespread. To illustrate, he cited the Kevin Cooper case, stating, “The case I am about to describe is horrible in many ways. The murders were horrible. Kevin Cooper, the man now sitting on death row, may well be – and in my view probably is – innocent. And he is on death row because the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department framed him.”
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