Cooper, an African-American, was convicted of murdering Doug and Peggy Ryen, their daughter and a house guest in 1985. An eight-year-old managed to survive. Cooper, had escaped from a minimum-security prison two days earlier and was hiding in an empty house nearby. On the other hand, the surviving child said the murderers were three white men. The piece also notes that, on the night of the murders, "a white man was spotted driving what was probably the Ryens' station wagon, which had been stolen. And the injuries to the victims suggested multiple weapons, not just one."
The authors claim "several key pieces of evidence pointing to other killers were blatantly mishandled by law enforcement authorities." Fletcher and four other judges also "concluded that the original prosecutor's chief forensic witness, Daniel Gregonis, falsified evidence." They also write:
Still, even those who believe that Cooper must have been involved should support clemency. Clemency doesn't require a pardon. Schwarzenegger has the discretion to take lesser steps, taking into account the myriad errors, inconsistencies and injustices in Cooper's prosecution and conviction. The governor could reduce Cooper's sentence to life without parole, which, under California law — except in the extremely rare case where new evidence exonerates a prisoner — really lasts a lifetime.They add that clemency is "essential to maintain public confidence and support for a system of justice that includes the death penalty. It's a safety valve, precluding further polarization in our political and judicial battles about the death penalty." See complete story here.