Debra J. Saunders

At issue here is a 101-page dissent, joined by four judges, in which Judge William Fletcher wrote that Cooper "is probably innocent of the crimes." Fletcher dismissed major evidence -- blood in the Ryen house, blood on a T-shirt, shoeprints, cigarette butts with Cooper's DNA found in the Ryens' car, the sheath of a hatchet used to bludgeon the victims -- as likely "planted by state actors."

Cooper's lawyers have long argued that three white men killed the Ryens and Hughes -- an argument Fletcher repeated. But for Fletcher's scenario to work, a number of law enforcement officers would have had to engage in a complicated fraud to frame an innocent black man starting in 1983 and continuing as late as the DNA testing in 2002. If Fletcher is right, a lot of cops should be under investigation -- then behind bars.

I asked Cooper's attorney Norman Hile if he had called for an investigation into this frame-up. "No," he answered. "We have tried to put on evidence as best we could in order to get Kevin released, and that's pretty much taken up our time."

According to court records, Cooper escaped 12 times from juvenile or adult jails. The California Supreme Court said prosecutors proved his guilt of a 1982 rape during the 1985 trial.

And he wants to be free.

Fletcher seems happy to oblige. In Fletcher's mind, the guilty are innocent after being proven guilty in a court of law, while the innocent -- people who risk their lives in the cause of public safety -- are presumed guilty without trial.

Debra J. Saunders

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