Wednesday, July 13, 2016

From FBI Boss to Death Penalty Foe

July 7, 2016
By Melinda Burns

After a long career as an FBI boss, having put the Mafia behind bars, investigated dozens of homicides and sent two murderers to their deaths by lethal injection, Tom Parker became a spokesman for death penalty repeal.

Parker, a 72-year-old Santa Barbaran, is seeking the support of law enforcement officials for the Justice That Works Act, a death penalty repeal measure that qualified last month for the November ballot in California.

“There were times during my career when I would gladly have pushed the button on a murderer,” he said. “Today, my position would be, life without parole.”

During 45 years in law enforcement, Parker said, he’s seen too many corrupt homicide investigations to believe in the death penalty anymore. The worst of them, he said, is the Chino Hills murder case of 1983.

For five years, Parker has been working pro-bono as a lead investigator to free Kevin Cooper, an African-American who was convicted for killing three family members and their houseguest on June 4, 1983, in the affluent white community of Chino Hills in San Bernardino County. Cooper had escaped from a nearby minimum-security prison, where he was serving a sentence for burglary. He was arrested off Santa Cruz Island in July, 1983, and is on death row in San Quentin State Prison.


But Cooper claims this was false evidence, planted and manipulated by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to convict him. He alleges that sheriff’s deputies destroyed evidence and ignored leads pointing to three white men as the murderers – including the initial statements of the Ryens’ eight-year-old son, Josh, the sole survivor.

During a top-to-bottom review of the case for the Sacramento law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, which has been representing Cooper pro-bono since 2003, Parker concluded that the prisoner was a victim of “police tunnel vision” – that is, forcing the evidence to fit a suspect, rather than finding the suspect who fits the evidence.


Cooper’s lawyers said that Parker has been systematically expanding the list of witnesses who saw three strangely-acting white men enter a bar near the Ryens’ home on the night of the murders, two of them wearing blood-spattered clothes.

In addition, they said, Parker has interviewed a woman who recalled driving in her grandmother’s car when it was nearly hit by a speeding station wagon with three men in it, just hours after the murders, in the suburbs of Pomona. The vehicle was identical to the Ryens’ and the license plate matched.


Meanwhile, Cooper has won some support in high places. In 2009, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied his request for additional forensic testing, 11 of 27 judges publicly dissented from the opinion. Five of them signed a 100-page dissent that began, “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.”


And this March, in a letter to Gov. Brown, the American Bar Association called for an executive reprieve for Cooper and a “robust review and investigation” of the case by the state Board of Parole Hearings.


The defense team is closing in on the identity of the real killers, Parker said. The record shows that the Sheriff’s Department deliberately discarded a pair of bloody coveralls that were brought in a few days after the murders by a woman living in a suburb of San Bernardino. She told deputies that her boyfriend, a white man and ex-con recently out of prison, had left them at her house on the night of the crime. He was not wearing the tan T-shirt he’d had on earlier, she said. Also, his hatchet was missing.

Parker is pursuing a hypothesis that the ex-con, who had previously strangled and dismembered a 17-year-old girl, was settling a score for Clarence Ray Allen, the murderer who was executed in California in 2006. He was a member of Allen’s gang and had killed the teen-ager on his orders.

The Ryens were horse breeders and trainers. They may have sold Allen a champion Arabian and later repossessed it when he failed to pay, Parker said.

“I think I’ve found the motive,” he said.



two witnesses came forward with new information in the case. It was not clear, however, if the panel would hear the latest challenge to the case, which Cooper's attorneys filed Sunday.

The petition included a request to hear a statement from Chris Slonaker, who claims she saw two men come into a bar/restaurant the night of the murder.

Slonaker, who was having dinner with a girlfriend, noticed that the men had blond hair and were wearing blood-spattered T-shirts.

"I don't know what they're the murderers. I just know that I saw men with blood on them," said Slonaker on The Early Show Monday. "They were pretty deranged ... They were asked to leave the bar."

Cooper's lawyer, Lanny Davis, also told The Early Show that another witness, who says he was involved in the police investigation, claims that Cooper was set up -- and that blond hair samples found in the hand of one victim was the smoking gun in the prosecution's case.


"There's a lot of evidence that says perhaps he didn't do it," says Ingels. "There's enough evidence that we need to pursue that evidence before we kill him, that's for sure." Some of that evidence came from Josh Ryen, the only eyewitness to his family's murder.

Josh was stabbed several times, and according to Det. Paul Ingels, his throat was slit literally from ear to ear. He was barely alive and yet he hung on.

When Deputy Sheriff Dale Sharp rushed to the hospital to question Josh, the boy couldn't talk. Josh was told to squeeze the hand of the deputy sheriff if the answer to a question was yes.

As injured as he was, Josh answered Sharp's questions about the attack.
When asked how many people there were, Josh repeatedly gave the same answer.

"He responded that there were three people," says Sharp.

Josh gave even greater details to psychiatrist Lorna Forbes. From her notes: "Three Mexicans chased us around the house. Tried to fight them off. They came and hit me."

While he was at the Loma Linda University Medical Center, Josh told that story to at least five people. But even more significant was the fact that when Cooper's picture was broadcast on the news, Josh didn't recognize the man, says Mary.

While he recuperated, Josh still maintained there were three attackers. But a year and a half later, when Josh, with his grandmother at his side, was asked about the murders, he said he didn't remember three attackers.


Judges Admit Death Row Inmate Is INNOCENT, But He’s Still Going To Be Executed

Feb. 1, 2016


Forensic evidence later proved that the unidentified blood at the crime scene did not in fact belong to Cooper. Instead, it contained the DNA of two different people – corroborating Ryen’s story.


Cooper’s conviction on the murder charges was later appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court.

His conviction was upheld even though five of the federal judges issued a passionate 103 page dissenting opinion.

This response stated, “There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing. The district court impeded and obstructed Cooper’s attorneys at every turn. [T]he court imposed unreasonable conditions, refused discovery that should have been available as a matter of course; limited testimony that should not have been limited; and found facts unreasonably, based on a truncated and distorted record. Public confidence in the proper administration of the death penalty depends on the integrity of the process followed by the state… So far as due process is concerned, twenty-four years of flawed proceedings are as good as no proceedings at all.”

The judges in this case found and admitted that the prosecution and the Sheriff’s office deliberately destroyed, tampered with and concealed from the defense key evidence that was never heard by the jury.

The judges said point blank that “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.”


tags: death penalty

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