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California Gov. Brown orders new DNA testing in 35-year-old murders

A California inmate charged in a decades-old murder case could get a second chance after Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday ordered new DNA tests in connection with the crime.
(Getty)

A California inmate charged in a decades-old murder case could get a second chance after Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday ordered new DNA tests in connection with the murders.

Kevin Cooper has maintained that he was framed for the 1983 Chino Hills hatchet and knife death of four people.

Brown had a T-shirt, a towel, a robe and an axe handle discovered in the neighbourhood of the scene to be tested. Brown also appointed a retired Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to serve as a special master to oversee the case.

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Cooper was convicted for the killing of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica and 11-year-old neighbor Christopher Hughes in 1985. Prosecutors said Cooper’s claims of innocence are refuted multiple times, including by the prior DNA testing, but Cooper and his lawyer argued the evidence against him was planted.

Kevin Cooper has maintained that he was framed for the 1983 Chino Hills hatchet and knife death of four people.
(California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP, File)

Now they have a chance to prove their case.

“I take no position of Mr. Cooper’s guilt or innocence at this time, but colorable factual questions have been raised about whether the advances in DNA technology guarantees limited retesting of certain physical evidence in this case,” Brown wrote in his executive order.

The purpose of the new test, he wrote, would be to determine whether there is another suspect in the DNA or the DNA of any other identifiable suspect is on the items. If the tests show no new DNA or DNA that cannot be traced to a person, “this issue should be closed,” Brown wrote.

After the announcement of the command, Kim Kardashian, a vocal advocate for criminal justice reform, tweeted in support, labeling it “great news.”

Brown issued christmas Eve to put together 143 grace and 131 commutations. They are expected to be his final grace actions as governor, but he has until he leaves office Jan. 7 to act on.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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