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Blood on Cooper's Shirt Will Be Tested

August 14, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A T-shirt splattered with the blood of death row inmate Kevin Cooper and two murder victims must be tested for a preservative that, if found, could possibly indicate tampering by law enforcement officials, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday.

Judge Marilyn Huff ordered tests for the blood preservative known as EDTA at the request of Cooper's attorneys and over the objection of state prosecutors.

Cooper, convicted of the 1983 murders of three members of a Chino Hills family and their 10-year-old house guest, was issued a stay of execution Feb. 9 by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 16 hours before he was scheduled to die.

The 9th Circuit urged Huff to order both the EDTA testing on the T-shirt and DNA tests on hairs found on the victims. The hair results were announced last week, showing all 13 tested probably belonged to the victims.

The testing for EDTA, a common preservative found in soaps and lotions, could be far more difficult to interpret, prosecutors argued.

Cooper's attorneys said that if a chemical analysis finds high concentrations of the preservative on Cooper's T-shirt, that would be an obvious indication that law enforcement planted the blood from a vial of his blood taken after his arrest.

"All we want to do is get the best qualified persons to do this, and we will," said defense attorney David Alexander.

Holly Wilkens, the deputy attorney general handling Cooper's case, has called EDTA testing "junk science" and urged Huff not to create a "cottage industry" of testing.

Prosecutors also noted that the T-shirt was never used against Cooper during his trial -- and that Cooper's own post-conviction request for a DNA test of the shirt in 2001 led to the discovery of his blood.

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