Lifelong death penalty supporter CA Sen. Dianne Feinstein reversed herself today and announced she is opposed to capital punishment because “the risk of unequal application is high and its effect on deterrence is low,” she told the LA Times.
The paper reports that Feinstein wrote in a letter to voters who had asked her position on the death penalty that “It has now become clear to me that the death penalty is being applied inconsistently. There is more and more evidence that innocent people have been put to death and that the death penalty is applied arbitrarily or discriminatorily on the basis of race, gender, and geography.”
In addition, on Twitter, Feinstein said she supports granting Kevin Cooper an innocence hearing and DNA test. Feinstein’s tweet featured a recent article by Nicholas Kristof which exhaustively reviews the case of Kevin Cooper, who has been on San Quentin’s death row for 33 years because, according to 9th Circuit Appeals Court Judge William Fletcher, “The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department framed him.” Ten other federal court judges agreed with Fletcher, and four California law school deans and the former president of the American Bar Association have also asked CA Gov. Jerry Brown to grant Cooper’s clemency petition.
Cooper, who is 60, was sentenced to death for the murder of four people in a suburb of Los Angeles in June 1983. Cooper, who had never been convicted of a violent crime prior to being sent to death row, has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense.
To this point, Brown has refused to grant an innocence hearing, even though the defense has said it will pay for it. CA Sen. Kamala Harris has indicated she also supports the hearing.
DPF has set up a petition to urge Brown to grant the defense request.