A wish has been granted to death row inmate Kevin Cooper, a Black man convicted of quadruple murders in 1983. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Friday calling for an independent investigation into the stabbing deaths of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica, and 11-year-old neighbor Christopher Hughes, for which Cooper has been imprisoned since 1985. Taking no position on the case, Newsom appointed a law firm to review "all facts and evidence," including those not heard in court, per the AP. This will include results of DNA tests on a T-shirt, towel, and hatchet collected from the Ryens' Chino Hills home, which former Gov. Jerry Brown requested in 2018. Newsom later ordered testing of hair and blood samples and a prison uniform button authorities said linked Cooper to the scene. He'd just escaped from prison.
The order notes Cooper's lawyers and the San Bernardino County district attorney's office have "starkly different views" on whether the evidence supports 63-year-old Cooper's claim of innocence. Prosecutors previously said his blood and that of a victim were on a T-shirt found near the scene. They also said DNA put Cooper in the Ryens' home and stolen station wagon. DA Jason Anderson says recent test results don't change that narrative, per the Mercury News. But Cooper attorney Norman Hile says the probe "will demonstrate that Kevin Cooper is innocent," per the Washington Post. Cooper, who has been backed by Kim Kardashian, has long claimed that police planted evidence to frame him. Per the Post, the lone survivor of the attack, 8-year-old Joshua Ryen, initially pointed to three white or Latino men, while a woman implicated her boyfriend, a convicted killer, early on. (Read more Kevin Cooper stories.)