Kamala Harris accused of blocking evidence that may have set innocent people free


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Sen. Kamala Harris is coming under renewed scrutiny following her selection as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, especially her record as a prosecutor in California.

Specifically, Harris has been accused of ignoring exculpatory or otherwise exonerating evidence against a number of suspects including death row inmate Kevin Cooper and George Gage, an electrician convicted of sexually molesting his stepdaughter.

Kevin Cooper. In 1983, Cooper was arrested and accused of killing Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year old daughter Jessica and her friend, 11-year-old Christopher Hughes, during a home invasion in the vicinity of Chino Hills.

After a trial, Cooper was convicted and given the death penalty. For the past 15 years, though, his lawyers have been pressing for advanced DNA testing, which they say could exonerate Cooper. However, when Harris was California’s attorney general, she inexplicably opposed the test. After the case was brought to national prominence last year by New York Times writer Nick Kristof — as Harris was running for the Democratic nomination herself — she backtracked and said she felt “awful about this.”

The case was highlighted during a Democratic presidential debate by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who blasted Harris over her general record as a prosecutor.

George Gage. In 2015 when Harris was still state attorney general, her office fought stringently to uphold Gage’s conviction after he was found guilty in 1999 of sexually abusing his ex-wife’s daughter. He was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

Gage appealed his conviction and a judge had found that prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence against him, to include his accuser’s medical records as well as a statement from her mother in which she described her daughter as a “pathological liar.” Harris’ office fought successfully against a retrial based solely on a technicality, and Gage, now 79, remains behind bars.

Jamal Trulove. A former reality star and aspiring hip-hop performer, Trulove was convicted of killing Seu Kuka, 28, when Harris was the district attorney of San Francisco. Trulove was convicted on the testimony of just one person, whom Harris praised as a “brave eyewitness” after the hip-hop artist was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

However, Harris did not disclose that the female witness had been paid $60,000 by her office and was provided new housing under terms of a witness protection program. An appeals court later overturned the guilty verdict after discovering that prosecutors working under Harris misrepresented the witness to jurors.

Trulove was awarded $13 million in a settlement with the city in March following allegations of witness manipulation, fabrication of evidence, and police misconduct.

Rafael Madrigal. Convicted in 2002 of a drive-by gangland shooting and attempted murder of Ricardo Aguilera in East Los Angeles, Madrigal was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

But seven years later, a federal court vacated the sentence after discovering that Madrigal’s lawyer did not introduce exculpatory evidence that included a number of alibis indicating his client was about 35 miles away and working at the time of the shooting.

Following his release, Madrigal requested the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board reimburse him $282,000 for being wrongly convicted. But Harris, who had become California attorney general, argued that the board should deny his request because he hadn’t sufficiently proven he was innocent.

Caramad Conley. In 1992, Conley was arrested on charges he was involved in a gang-related drive-by shooting that left two men dead in San Francisco. The prosecution’s key witness testified that Conley had privately confessed to the murders, leading to his conviction and a life sentence.

The witness denied under oath that he had been compensated for his statement, but a follow-on investigation found that a detective had indeed paid him. In addition, the witness was providing housing by the prosecution and put in a witness protection program.

A judge vacated Conley’s conviction in December 2010 after “voluminous” evidence that the witness had lied was presented. At the time, Harris was San Fran’s district attorney and her office sought to retry the case.

A month after she left to become state attorney general, Harris’ former office dropped its effort and he later received $3.5 million in settlement money from the city for being wrongly convicted.

Daniel Larsen. Convicted in 1998 of possessing a concealed weapon, Larsen, a neo-Nazi gang member, was sentenced to 27 years behind bars. Police said they saw Larsen throw a six-inch knife underneath a vehicle following a confrontation outside a bar in L.A.

Following the trial and Larsen’s conviction, nine witnesses came forward, including a North Carolina police officer, to dispute claims that Larsen was the one holding the knife. In 2010, a judge ruled that Larsen’s first lawyer did not interview any witnesses at all and thus, overturned his conviction.

But in spite of the ruling, Harris, as attorney general, blocked Larsen’s release for two years. After his release, Harris appealed it by arguing a technicality — that he had missed a paperwork deadline.


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