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Kevin Cooper, Again

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In the NYT, Nicholas Kristof has this column on the Kevin Cooper case in California.  Kristof relies entirely on the view of the case expressed in a dissenting opinion on appeal.  He completely ignores the opinion of the judge who actually heard the evidence, US District Judge Marilyn Huff.  Her lengthy opinion concludes:

Post-conviction DNA testing confirms that Petitioner committed the murders of the Ryen/Hughes victims. This Court has conducted mitochondrial DNA testing and EDTA testing, has heard testimony from forty-two witnesses, independently reviewed the evidence, including the trial and evidentiary hearing transcripts and all of the parties' submissions and arguments. Based on this careful review, the Court agrees with the post-conviction DNA results and all of the courts that came before it in this case: Petitioner is the one responsible for these brutal murders. Accordingly, the Court DENIES the successive petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Kristof is also apparently unaware that the Governator does not have the authority to commute Cooper's sentence by himself.  Many states have put constraint of some type on gubernatorial clemency, and the Illinois fiasco by subsequently convicted felon George Ryan illustrates why that is a good idea.  California's restraint is unique.  A person "twice convicted of felony" may not receive a commutation without the recommendation of a majority of the California Supreme Court.

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When Huff's findings were initially published, at the very end of the opinion were photos of the victims. It was a nice touch.

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