September, 1983 – People of the State of California vs. Kevin Cooper

Kevin Cooper was tried for murder before the Honorable Richard C. Garner in the Superior Court in San Diego, California. The trial began in September 1984. Representing the People was San Bernardino County District Attorney Dennis Kottmeier. Representing the defendant was San Bernardino County Deputy Public Defender David Negus.

The evidence presented against Mr. Cooper was as follows:

  1. Fingerprints showing that Mr. Cooper had been in a vacant house near to the Ryens’ home around the time of the murders. From the time of his arrest, Mr. Cooper freely admitted that he had stayed in this house. Read about the vacant house and Cooper’s stay there in the clemency petition. [link]
  2. A hatchet holster mysteriously found in the vacant house on its second inspection. (This holster was not found in the first inspection of the house, as shown in an SBSD report.) The prosecution alleged this holster belonged to the alleged murder weapon found by the side of the road leading away from the Ryens’ house. Tests for fingerprints did not reveal any usable fingerprints. Read about the hatchet holster in the clemency petition.
  3. Three shoe prints law enforcement claimed were left by a tennis shoe that the prosecution asserted at trial was uniquely available only at the local prison. One of those shoe prints was allegedly found over a month after the murders were discovered, supposedly on a bed sheet taken from the Ryens’ bedroom. Another shoe print was allegedly found on a Jacuzzi cover just outside the Ryens’ bedroom, although law enforcement destroyed it before it could be examined by the defense. A third print was allegedly found in the vacant house. Evidence later uncovered in 2004 showed that this type of tennis shoe was not unique to prisons, but was commonly available at retail to consumers. Evidence recently uncovered also shows that the SBSD obtained tennis shoes from CIM and used these shoes when it practiced making shoe prints with blood in its laboratory. Read about the shoe prints in the clemency petition.
  4. Cigarette butts found in the Ryen’s stolen car on its second inspection that is similar to the type given to prisoners at CIM. These butts were not found on a first inspection of the Ryens’ car, which is memorialized in an SBSD report. The prosecution alleged Kevin Cooper smoked these butts in the car. However, several cigarette butts found in the vacant house “disappeared” after SBSD deputies reported finding them. Read about the cigarette butts in the in the vacant house and in the Ryens’ car in the clemency petition.
  5. A drop of blood found not in the Ryen’s bedroom where the victims were found, but in the hallway outside the bedroom. The testing and custody of this blood drop, which was labeled and became known as “A-41,” was the subject of false testimony by an SBSD criminologist at trial. While the SBSD claims that it “consumed” the bloodspot in testing before the defense was alerted to it, it has “reappeared” at least twice since then when the prosecution wanted to subject it to testing. Read about the history of A-41 in the clemency petition.
  6. A green jacket button from a prison jacket found in the vacant house. The button was found in plain sight in a bedroom in the vacant house, but only on a second inspection. It was not seen or documented in an earlier inspection, and the button was the wrong color to have matched a prison jacket a prison guard saw Cooper wearing shortly after he escaped. Read more about the jacket button in the clemency petition.
  7. Luminol testing done by the SBSD in the bathtub/shower in the vacant house which supposedly was “positive” for blood. This luminol testing was also consistent with bleach being applied to the bathtub when it was cleaned when the prior tenant left a few days earlier. Read about the luminol testing in the clemency petition.

Significantly, the SBSD found no blood evidence that matched Cooper in the Ryens’ bedroom and recovered no African American hairs anywhere at the crime scene. One of the victims had numerous hairs clutched in her hands, but none were African American hairs. Read about the hairs clutched in the victim’s hands and other hairs found attached to the victims in the clemency petition. [link]

Read the Trial Transcripts:

Cooper Trial Transcript Index