By PAUL M.
An evidentiary hearing will take place this month to examine the possibility that police tampered with crucial DNA evidence in the case of Kevin Cooper.
Cooper is on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California. In 1985 he was convicted of murdering a Southern California family. There is strong evidence that he was not the killer but rather the victim of a police frame-up.
In December, Cooper won a three-year battle with the state for DNA testing, which could potentially offer definitive proof of his innocence. Evidence is currently being tested in Berkeley, Calif. Results are expected within the next few months.
However, in May, before the tests began, Cooper’s defense team discovered that DNA evidence might have been tampered with. Records from the San Bernardino sheriff’s department show that the evidence was removed from storage in 1999 by Daniel Gregonis, a criminalist who worked for the prosecution at Cooper’s trial.
During the trial, Gregonis analyzed a drop of blood found on a wall near where the murders occurred. He said that the blood was from an African American and linked it to Cooper. But he also admitted that after he had received a sample of Cooper’s blood he changed one test result to make it match Cooper’s.
Among the items that Gregonis removed from storage in 1999 was the very drop of blood that he tested for the trial and claimed was Cooper’s, along with a sample of Cooper’s blood taken at the time of his arrest.
The evidence also contained a cigarette butt, likely belonging to the killer, which is undergoing testing, as well as a swab of Cooper’s saliva. The saliva could easily have been transferred onto the cigarette.
Considering his previous record and the negative implications it would have for his career if Cooper were exonerated, it is possible that Gregonis tampered with the evidence while it was in his possession. The defense team is outraged that he had access to the evidence.
Gregonis has refused to offer any explanation for his actions. John Kochis, the San Bernardino Supervising Deputy District Attorney, told Cooper’s attorneys that Gregonis was only verifying the existence of certain pieces of evidence because of Cooper’s request for DNA tests. But this explanation is questionable, considering that Gregonis had the materials in his possession for over 24 hours.
The coming hearing, scheduled for Sept. 19 in San Diego, was called by the defense in order to examine the circumstances of the Gregonis incident. Cooper’s supporters have called for a demonstration outside of the courthouse on the day of the hearing. It is crucial to show our support for Kevin Cooper and protest the police corruption and misconduct that permeates his case.
The demonstration will take place at 1 p.m. at the San Diego Superior Court, 220 West Broadway. Please call (415) 821-0459 a few days in advance to confirm the date of the hearing.