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The Usual Suspects By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, February 10, 2004


THE NAUSEATING STENCH OF HUMAN BLOOD filled the eight-year-old’s nostrils as he awakened. Much of that blood was his own, covering the bottom of the bathtub where Joshua Ryen had crawled to hide from the dark-skinned man who slashed his throat and left him for dead.

The terrified screams that had awakened him earlier that June 4th night in his family’s home were now replaced by deathly stillness. His father Douglas, 41, and ten-year-old sister Jessica and her 11-year-old friend Christopher Hughes had been killed by murderous attacks with a hatchet, buck knife and icepick.

His sister Jessica’s body lay in a hallway. As Los Angeles Times reporter Lance Pugmire describes, “She was stabbed more than 40 times, and a zigzag pattern had been carved into her bare chest.”

The body of Christopher Hughes was “lying dead against a living room wall, close to an exit door, perhaps trying to escape. He had been stabbed nearly 25 times and was the last to die.”

In the bedroom Joshua found his father’s body bent over the side of the bed.

And on the bedroom floor, partly scalped by the hatchet of her killer, her cold hand still clutching a clump of her own blond hair, Joshua found the blood-covered nude body of his 41-year-old mother Peggy.

The small boy, holding the still-bleeding gash in his throat closed with four pale, trembling fingers, lay down next to her and stared at his lifeless mother for 11 hours, until a worried Bill Hughes arrived looking for his son.

Such was the murder scene encountered in 1983 by San Bernardino County peace officers on Old English Road in Chino Hills, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. It was as if the Manson Family had returned to slaughter a new houseful of people.

Two days earlier a convict had escaped from nearby Chino State Prison. Kevin Cooper was in the minimum-security facility serving a four-year sentence for burglary. But he knew a secret that his jailers might discover at any moment – that he had been jailed under a false name and identity.

Cooper admitted that he was hiding out in an unoccupied home he had broken into virtually next door to the Ryens when the killings happened (He admitted this only after telephone records showed a call from there to his girlfriend). He was convicted of the killings and has spent the last 19 years on death row in San Quentin.

Leftist activists and other death penalty opponents had been rebuffed in their last minute appeals to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the California Supreme Court, and other jurisdictions to stop Cooper’s scheduled Tuesday execution. But on Monday the activist 9th Circuit, at the urging of senior Judge James R. Browning, put this execution on hold until its 11-judge panel can review the case. No date has been set for such review. On Monday night conflicting stories echoed in newscasts that the case had been bounced back to a lower court in San Diego, California, or that the stay was in doubt and Cooper might yet be executed around midnight.

Who is this dissenting Judge James R. Browning?  Appointed to the 9th Circuit Court in September 1961 by Democratic President John F. Kennedy, the 86-year-old Montana native has served for more than 42 years as a low-key liberal jurist whose rulings affect most places west of the Rocky Mountains.

In 1996, in a ruling reflective of his values, Judge Browning declared unconstitutional any attempt by the National Endowment for the Arts to enforce “general standards of decency,” denouncing such regulations as “void for vagueness.”

“Even when the government is funding speech,” he ruled, “it may not distinguish between speakers on the basis of the speaker’s viewpoint….or otherwise aim at the suppression of dangerous ideas.”

In 2000 the then-82-year-old judge took “senior status” on the 9th Circuit, and in September 2001 President George W. Bush named Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl to replace him.  Senate Leftists have used parliamentary gimmicks to block most Bush judicial nominees, including Kuhl. So Browning remains on the bench, continuing to hand down rulings applauded by the extreme Left.

And who are the activists, 100 of whom this week surrounded California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s private Los Angeles home with protest signs as a way of saying “We know where you and your children live”? 

They are the usual suspects, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, good friend of Marxist Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. (Did Jackson take time to visit his out-of-wedlock daughter while in the City of Angels?)  And thespian Mike Farrell of “M*A*S*H” television fame, good friend of Castro’s good friends the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, who now heads the group Death Penalty Focus. And ubiquitous Leftist movie star Sean Penn, who both before and after the war has provided the world press with a steady supply of anti-American, pro-Saddam Hussein propaganda. And dimming star Richard Dreyfuss, who signed onto Cooper’s cause. And former Clinton advisor during the Monica Lewinsky scandals Lanny Davis, whose law firm represents Cooper pro bono, pro malum.

Joining them in demanding a halt to Kevin Cooper’s execution were Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer who was himself a convicted murderer on death row until celebrity protests brought a political reconsideration of his case. (A quick Google search will reveal that lots of folks still believe in Carter’s guilt, as you can see, e.g., here and here.)

Present, too, were actor Denzel Washington, who did a very sympathetic portrayal of Carter in the 1999 Norman Jewison movie “Hurricane.”  This questionable movie is being widely used in schools around the world as a Leftist propaganda parable depicting a successful black man purportedly framed and abused by racist white cops.

And this is the same narrative Leftists are using in the Cooper case. Cooper is a black man allegedly framed by evidence-planting cops to convict him of murdering a white family. (Were these colors reversed, the same liberals would be calling these killings a “hate crime,” and would regard the evidence of guilt as overwhelming.)

And like another Cooper supporter, convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, Cooper has endeared himself to Leftist intellectuals by being not only a black man but also a writer, one of the glittering literati. (His final article, comparing himself to Dred Scott in 1857, stressed that one of the prosecutors purportedly denying him justice is a Republican.)

Cooper, now 46, is “an intensely gentle and kind man,” his Lefty lawyers told the San Francisco Chronicle, “who has found his peace with the system and the injustice that has been done to him.”

“Cooper is a violent man,” replied the brilliant Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders last Friday. “He killed two adults and two children. He [kidnapped and] raped a teenage girl in Pennsylvania. He was caught after the Chino Hills killings because a woman went to Santa Barbara County authorities to report that Cooper had raped her at knifepoint. This ‘intensely gentle and kind man’ has been in trouble with the law since he was 7 years old, he has been institutionalized so many times that he has escaped 12 times, and still was able to kill and rape by age 25.

In that Chino prison, Cooper knew that if his real identity was discovered he would be facing rape charges in Pennsylvania and other criminal allegations as well. He would instantly be transferred to a prison where escape required more than crawling under a fence.

“If Cooper’s supporters simply opposed the death penalty, one might respect their conviction,” Saunders continued. “Instead, they invite the release of a violent criminal. They can’t ask a governor to stop an execution because a man was framed, and then allow that man to remain in prison. They’re the ones who have ‘the wrong man.’”

What about the Leftist claims of Cooper’s innocence? DNA evidence was not routinely used in the mid-1980s, and activists predicted that such testing would exonerate Kevin Cooper. The demanded testing was done, and it confirmed the presence of Cooper’s DNA in several places at the murder scene.

What do Leftists always do when scientific evidence goes against them? They declare the evidence false, planted, a frame-up arranged by racist police.

(Leftists had already prepared the ground in Iraq, you will recall, to argue that any Weapons of Mass Destruction found there had been planted by the United States.)

And, sure enough, in this case Leftists claimed that police had salted the crime evidence with bits of Cooper’s blood. They demanded new tests looking for even the tiniest traces of EDTA, used as a preservative in test-tube blood, as proof of police evidence-tampering.

But this test would prove nothing and matter less, notes Saunders. “EDTA is frequently used in hand creams, laundry detergent and other products,” she writes. “It could show up if the DNA came in contact with an EDTA-laced product. Prosecutors would be insane to agree to a test that could be inconclusive or, worse, misleading.  The corker: If the new tests don’t implicate investigators, the results would not change a thing, as far as Cooper’s lawyers are concerned. They will only use facts to muddy the waters.”

Thusfar Cooper’s defenders have tried to conjure ghosts to create a glimmer of doubt. A woman purportedly accused her biker husband of coming home with bloody clothing. How could one man, even with a past as violent as Cooper’s, kill four people so quickly with three different weapons? Three original jurors, publicly identified and potentially intimidated by Cooper’s supporters, now say they want DNA testing of hairs found in a victim’s hand. A prisoner claims that he overheard two other prisoners confess to this crime. A liberal reporter heard secondhand stories of police evidence tampering.

“They’re just making this stuff up,” a former detective employed by Cooper’s lawyers told Debra Saunders of the claim that Cooper was framed. “They’re doing everything they can, professional, unprofessional, ethically, unethically,” said Paul Ingels, also a former cop in Pomona, California. “The end justifies the means.”

This veteran cop and detective who was hired to get Cooper off is now convinced “beyond any shadow of doubt, that Kevin Cooper was involved in the murders.”

Young Joshua, when still in shock and dizzy from loss of blood, told one investigator that his family had been killed by three Hispanics…or maybe even three whites. But Josh Ryen, now a grown-up construction worker, told the Los Angeles Times he now has no doubts who murdered his mother, father, sister and best friend.

“The day Cooper dies will be the first day of what is left of my life,” he wrote to Governor Schwarzenegger (who decided to let the execution go forward based on the overwhelming evidence of Cooper’s guilt). “The time has come for Kevin Cooper to pay for what he has done.” 

The Leftists who support Cooper will apparently have a candidate in the November election.  Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry, since his days as his state’s Lt. Governor under Michael Dukakis, has agreed with Dukakis’ policies, including weekend furloughs for imprisoned convicted murderers such as Willy Horton and opposition to the death penalty. 

Kerry’s handlers persuaded him to accept the death penalty for terrorist mass murderers, like those of September 11, 2001. But Kerry has not said he would accept the death penalty for mere rapists and sadistic killers of families, like Kevin Cooper. 

And opponents of the death penalty know a secret about John Kerry. No matter what he needs to say in order to get elected in this country that still strongly favors the death penalty, Kerry will give lifetime Federal appointments to judges like James R. Browning who, for decades to come, can use their judicial power to stifle, strangle and kill the death penalty. Ours is no longer a nation of laws but of men – men and women who wear black robes and ideologically twist the law into whatever they want it to be.

“What I can’t figure out,” wrote Saunders, “is why Hollywood and the hard-left chose such a violent man as their cause celebre against the death penalty.”

Debra, my dear, the Democrats are about to nominate as their standard bearer a man who has admitted personally committing atrocities and war crimes in Vietnam, John Kerry. They do not care. Some Leftists might even secretly applaud Kevin Cooper’s bloody 1983 slaughter of a upper-middle-class white family in their then-$450,000 home.

But these same Leftists, including Kerry, will challenge the execution of Politically Correct criminals by invoking nit-picky technicalities, no matter how strong the evidence of guilt.

And they will criticize President George W. Bush for acting to defend America against a 9-11 attack by nuke-toting terrorists based on evidence against Iraq that was only 99.8 percent agreed upon by other major nations’ intelligence agencies.

If Democrats like Kerry are saying that we cannot act to defend our society against terrorists or murderers without 100 percent perfect proof, then they are saying that they will never act. 100 percent perfect proof almost never happens. Can America survive with such leaders?

And as for radical Leftists out to impose their ideology on the rest of us, look at the blood of 100 million people during the past century on the hands of the Left and recognize these mentally unbalanced ideologues for what they really are. How different are they, really, from the killers they defend?

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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