The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has reaffirmed a previous order that the case of death-row inmate Kevin Cooper be returned to federal District Court in San Diego.
After the 9th Circuit's decision last week to stop Cooper's scheduled execution at San Quentin State Prison, the state attorney general's office moved to halt the order. In a 9-2 vote that mirrored the stay-of-execution decision, the appellate court said it would issue a mandate ordering the case to District Court on March 2.
Cooper, 46, was convicted of the 1983 murders in Chino Hills of a married couple, their 10-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old houseguest.
David Alexander, Cooper's defense attorney, said he was gratified by the 9th Circuit ruling and that he expected hearings to begin on or shortly after March 2.
A spokeswoman for state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said his office was weighing whether to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking if the 9th Circuit exceeded its authority by holding an en banc hearing before 11 judges after a three-judge panel had denied a similar Cooper motion.