Thursday, March 18, 2004
A.G. Asks Supreme Court to Reinstate Cooper Sentence
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Attorney General Bill Lockyer yesterday petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ order of last month granting a new hearing to condemned murderer Kevin Cooper, Lockyer’s office said in a press release.
“Over the last 20 years, every state and federal court that has extensively reviewed Cooper’s more than three dozen efforts to reverse or delay his sentence has rejected his claims,” Lockyer said. “If courts can ignore the law during these 11th-hour, last-ditch efforts to halt executions, murder victims’ family members and loved ones will be left with little solace, knowing a closure to their grief could be suspended time and again.”
In a Feb. 9 order, the Ninth Circuit stayed Cooper’s execution for four 1985 murders pending further review of his bid for new scientific testing that he claims will exonerate him and prove his contention that earlier DNA tests that linked him to the crime were tainted by evidence tampering.
That order, as to which Lockyer unsuccessfully sought a stay from the Supreme Court, came the day after a divided three-judge panel denied Cooper’s application to bring a successive habeas corpus petition. It was his third application subsequent to his original petition, which was denied.
Lockyer said he will ask the high court to rule that under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the three-judge panel’s denial of an application for leave to file a successive habeas corpus petition forecloses further review in the Court of Appeals.
Lockyer, along with San Bernardino County prosecutors, has insisted that there is overwhelming evidence of Cooper’s guilt and that nothing in the “new evidence” cited in the latest application justifies a different conclusion. But he noted yesterday that the certiorari petition necessarily focuses on the jurisdictional question.
The parties are presently scheduled to explain their views of the relevant science to U.S. District Judge Marilyn L. Huff of the Southern District of California by April 2. The state is to file a brief by May 2 regarding the relevancy of the testing sought by the defense.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company