California Gov. Jerry Brown is making every last ditch effort to make the most out of his final days in office. And what better way to leave a lasting impression than pardoning 43 and commutating 143 people, including "refugees" who are facing deportation? That's exactly what Brown did, on Christmas Eve of all times.
In addition to making those pardons and commutations, Brown ordered for new DNA testing to take place in the 1985 murders of Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their daughter and a neighbor’s son in Chino Hills, east of Los Angeles. Kevin Cooper was convicted of their deaths.
Brown wrote in his executive order that he has no vested interest in the case:
I take no position as to Mr. Cooper's guilt or innocence at this time, but colorable factual questions have been raised about whether advances in DNA technology warrant limited retesting of certain physical evidence in this case. The purpose of this new testing is to determine whether another suspected person's DNA, or the DNA of any other identifiable suspect based on a match in the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database, is present on the items tested. Given the nature of the testing requested, and the fact that the murders in this case occurred before the advent of DNA technology and related evidence handling protocols, both parties acknowledge the distinct possibility that further testing may yield multiple DNA contributors of unknown origin. As such, if the only result of further testing is to yield either no additional DNA matches, or only DNA from unknown contributors, this matter should be closed.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney's office contested the decision in a 94-page filing, part of the reason is because past DNA testing proved he was guilty:
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.
Cooper's attorneys filed for clemency back in 2016.
Part of the reason Cooper's request was granted because of celebrities and politicians, like Sen. Kamala Harris (D), California State Treasurer John Chiang and Kim Kardashian West bringing light to the story.
Here's a full copy of the 94-page filing submitted by the San Bernardino County DA's office:
Richard Richardson, the editor in chief of San Quentin News, which details life behind bars, had his sentence commuted. He's now able to stand before a parole board after serving more than 20 years for robbery, The New York Times reported.
Brown did, however, reject San Francisco Mayor London Breed's request for her brother's sentence to be commuted. He's currently serving a life sentence for involuntary manslaughter and armed robbery.