During Wednesday night’s debate, Tulsi Gabbard stated Kamala Harris ‘blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man.’ Fact checkers say it’s complicated.
During Wednesday night’s second round of Democratic debates, Tulsi Gabbard went after Kamala Harris’ record as California’s attorney general and San Francisco’s district attorney, stating that Harris “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until she was forced to do so.”
The Sacramento Bee states that Gabbard’s claim is true.
But, it’s not that simple.
Harris’ office, when she was California’s attorney general did block DNA testing that could free a potentially-innocent man from death row.
Last year, the New York Times ran an extensive story on the 1983 killings of a family of four in Chino Valley, California and how a black man (an escaped convict) named Kevin Cooper may have been wrongly convicted for murdering an adult couple and two children, sent to death row, and nearly executed.
In the middle of the story, there is this:
This is the story of a broken justice system. It appears that an innocent man was framed by sheriff’s deputies and is on death row in part because of dishonest cops, sensational media coverage and flawed political leaders — including Democrats like Brown and Kamala Harris, the state attorney general before becoming a U.S. senator, who refused to allow newly available DNA testing for a black man convicted of hacking to death a beautiful white family and young neighbor. [Emphasis added.]
As state attorney general, Kamala Harris refused to allow this advanced DNA testing and showed no interest in the case… [Emphasis added.]
The Washington Post said this about Harris’ culpability:
But the one death penalty controversy Harris has not fully explained, at least until now, is the case of Kevin Cooper, a man on death row who has proclaimed his innocence for the past 35 years but who was denied essential DNA testing while Harris was the state’s attorney general.
Before he departed office California Governor Jerry Brown ordered limited testing of some of the physical evidence in the case, and new newly-elected Governor Newsom ordered new DNA testing earlier this year.
The executive order broadens an order by former Gov. Jerry Brown, who in December requested “limited retesting” of a tan T-shirt, an orange towel, a hatchet handle and a hatchet sheath after Cooper’s attorneys said some key items weren’t properly tested and should be analyzed using more current DNA technology.
Newsom’s order requires the DNA testing and analysis of untested hairs from the victims’ hands and the crime scene, a blood vial, a blood drop, fingernail scrapings from the victims and a green button.
Although the DNA testing has not been completed yet—and Kevin Cooper’s innocence has not been proven—Gabbard’s assertion does demonstrate that Harris may have been willing to send a potentially-innocent man to his death.