The 48 Hours episode “Was Kevin Cooper Framed?” investigates the case of Kevin Cooper, a death row inmate at San Quentin Prison who says he was framed for the murders of four people. In 1983, Douglas Ryen, his wife Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica Ryen, and 11-year-old neighbor Christopher Hughes, were brutally killed in the Ryen home in Chino Hills, California. Josh Ryen, then 8, survived after having his throat slit, among other brutal injuries.
Three days prior to the murders, Cooper, then 25, escaped from the California Institution for Men in Chino. He had just started serving a four-year sentence for two burglaries. When arrested for the Ryen murders, Cooper admitted to hiding in the vacant house next door to the Ryens for two days but says he left the day before the murders and had hitchhiked to Mexico. in 1985, Cooper was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death. For the past 35 years, Cooper has maintained his innocence and claims that the evidence presented against him was manipulated and planted by the police. Several people including New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof believe Cooper was the victim of a horribly racist prosecution. (The Ryens and Hughes were white, Cooper is black.)
In 2001, Cooper became the first death row inmate in California to successfully request post-conviction DNA testing of evidence. In December 2018, outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown ordered new DNA testing in the Cooper case. However, Cooper, now 61, isn’t as excited about the news as he was at first: Governor Brown denied Cooper’s request for an “innocence investigation.”
Cooper is now asking his supporters to send a petition requesting an innocence investigation to incoming Governor Gavin Newsom. Cooper cites at least six Brady violations, “where the police and district attorney withheld material exculpatory evidence from my trial attorney.” 48 Hours airs Saturdays at 9 pm on CBS.
You can write to Kevin Cooper at this address: Kevin Cooper, C-65304, 4-EB-82, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA 94974.