Reasonable Doubt

One of the paradoxes of the death penalty in the United States is that those who seem to be suitable for capital punishment typically avoid it, while those defendants who are executed are usually randomly unlucky losers of a reverse legal lottery.  The following cases are examples of the remarkably arbitrary nature of death penalty appeals and the inconsistency of punishment, especially in California.

Kevin Cooper: Framed or Guilty?


On October 8, 1982, Kevin Cooper raped a high school student who had interrupted him while he was in the process of burglarizing a Pennsylvania home.  While confined in Pennsylvania, Cooper escaped, something he had done numerous times after offenses committed as a teenager and young adult.  By April 29, 1983, he would already be confined for two burglaries committed in the Los Angeles area at the California Institution for Men at Chino.  Because he … Continue reading

The Strange case of Thomas Thompson


On September 11, 1981, Thomas Thompson, David Leitch, his ex-wife Tracy Leitch and twenty year old Ginger Fleischli met at a Balboa Island, California pizza parlor for dinner.  Ginger Fleischli’s body was discovered in a shallow grave three days later and both Thompson and Leitch were subsequently arrested.    What happened next set off a chain of bizarre legal events that ultimately culminated in Thompson’s execution, the first execution of a California defendant who claimed that … Continue reading