The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco overruled one of its panels and delayed the execution of convicted killer Kevin Cooper yesteray. A few hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison, the court called for new testing of blood evidence, the Los Angeles Times reports. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene. It was the first time in decades that the high court has agreed to delay a California execution.
Cooper was convicted in a rampage that left a married couple and two children dead and badly mutilated. Defense lawyers had asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the execution so that tests could be performed on hair and blood found at the crime scene more than 20 years ago. The court ruled 9-2 that the tests should be done. “Cooper is either guilty as sin or he was framed by the police,” wrote Judge Barry Silverman, one of the judges in the majority. “There is no middle ground.”
The court ordered testing of a bloody T-shirt. Recent DNA tests showed that the blood on the shirt, found near the murder scene, belonged to Cooper. His attorneys asked that the blood be tested for the presence of the chemical EDTA, which is used to preserve blood evidence. If the preservative is present, it would show that the blood was placed on the shirt after the killings.
Last night, Cooper’s arm had been prepared for lethal injection, and he was sitting with a spiritual advisor in a room next to the death chamber when he got word of the Supreme Court’s decision. The 9th Circuit’s ruling marked the first time in a dozen years that the court had issued such a last-minute stay in a California death penalty case.