USA Patriot Terrorism Prevention Reauhtorization Act of 2005--Conference Report--Part II
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Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I rise today to comment on section 507 of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act conference report. This section originates in a bill that I introduced earlier in this year, S. 1088, the Streamlined Procedures Act. Section 507 is based on subsections (b) through (e) of section 9 of S. 1088. My Arizona colleague, Representative FLAKE, took an interest in this matter and sought to offer this provision as an amendment to a court security and police-officer protection bill last November. Mr. FLAKE's version of the provision is printed in House Report 109-279; it made a number of improvements to the original version in section 9 of my bill. Section 507 of the present conference report reflects most of Mr. FLAKE's improvements, such as the simplification of the chapter 154 qualification standard, which obviates the need for separate standards for those States that make direct and collateral review into separate vehicles and those States with unitary procedures, and Mr. FLAKE's enhanced retroactivity provisions.
Mr. FLAKE already has commented on section 507 in an extension of remarks, at 151 CONG. REC. E2639-40, December 22, 2005. I will not repeat what he said there and will simply associate myself with his remarks. Instead, I would like to focus today on why section 507 is necessary.
Section 507 expands and improves the special expedited habeas-corpus procedures authorized in chapter 154 of the U.S. Code. These procedures are available to States that establish a system for providing legal representation to capital defendants on State habeas review. Chapter 154 sets strict time limits on Federal court action, bars consideration of claims that were not adjudicated in State court, and sharply curtails amendments to petitions. The benefits that chapter 154 offers to States that opt in to its standards are substantial. Currently, however, the court that decides whether a State is eligible for chapter 154 is the same court that would be subject to its time limits. Unsurprisingly, these courts have proven resistant to chapter 154. Section 507 places the eligibility decision in the hands of a neutral party--the U.S. Attorney General, with review of his decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which does not hear habeas petitions. Section 507 also makes chapter 154's deadlines more practical by extending the time for a district court to review and rule on a chapter 154 petition from 6 months to 15 months.
As I mentioned earlier, section 507 of the present conference report is based on section 9 of the Streamlined Procedures Act. The SPA and habeas reform have been the subject of multiple hearings in both the House and Senate during this Congress. In answers to written questions following their testimony at a July 13 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arizona prosecutors John Todd and Kent Cattani provided detailed evidence of systematic delays in Federal habeas corpus review of State capital cases. Among the information that they provided was a comprehensive study undertaken by the Arizona Attorney General's Office of all capital cases in the State. This study examined the appeals of all prisoners currently on Arizona's death row--over 100 prisoners. Mr. Todd summarized the findings in his answers to written questions:
[S]tatistical information based on Arizona's current capital cases in Federal court, and anecdotal information derived from Arizona's current and former capital cases substantiate the significant problem of delay and lack of finality for victims. The AEDPA has not solved this problem.
There are 76 Arizona capital cases pending in Federal court. This represents over two thirds of Arizona's pending capital cases. Although some cases were filed within the last few months, over half of the cases have been pending in Federal court five years or more. Of those, thirteen cases have been pending for seven years. Ten cases have been pending for eight years. Five cases have been pending for more than fifteen years.
The AEDPA was a major step in making Federal habeas review more reliable and speedy. However, the Supreme Court's reversals of the Ninth Circuit exemplify the unwillingness of some court cultures to obey this Congress' directives if there is any ambiguity in the law.
Mr. Todd also gave a summary of the extreme delays experienced by the State of Arizona on Federal habeas review:
Only one of the 63 [Arizona death-penalty] cases filed under the AEDPA has moved from the Federal District Court to the Ninth Circuit. That case has been in the Ninth Circuit for over 5 years. Twenty-eight of Arizona's capital cases have been pending in District Court for between six and eight years.
[One Arizona death penalty case] has been on Federal habeas review for over 19 years. Two of those cases have been on Federal habeas review for over 18 years, one for over 16 years, another for over 14 years, still another for over 12 years. These cases alone establish a pattern of unreasonable delay. The [Arizona Attorney General's] report shows that these cases are not simply strange aberrations in an otherwise smooth functioning system of habeas review.
Mr. Todd concluded: ``there is a serious problem of delay and lack of finality currently in Federal habeas review of state-court judgments, even after Congress' enactment of the AEDPA almost a decade ago. ..... Based on the attached review of the Arizona capital cases since enactment of the AEDPA, delay has not been eliminated or even reduced, rather it has been prolonged.''
Similarly, in his answers to written questions, Kent Cattani, the Chief Counsel of the Capital Litigation Section of the Arizona Attorney General's Office, reviewed the Arizona Attorney General's study of Arizona capital cases and concluded as follows: ``Federal habeas reform is necessary. After 9 years under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (``AEDPA''), it is clear that the Act did not eliminate or even reduce the problem of delay in the Federal habeas process.''
Interestingly, although the Judicial Conference of the United States has uniformly opposed all Federal habeas reform--it even objected in writing to SPA Section 8(a)'s requirement that circuit courts decide habeas cases within 300 days after briefing is completed--in its September 26, 2005 letter to Chairman SPECTER regarding the SPA, the Conference itself provides substantial evidence of a growing backlog and delays in resolution of capital habeas petitions. The September 26 letter notes the following facts: From 1998 to 2002, the number of State capital habeas cases pending in the Federal district courts increased from 446 to 721. During the same period, the percentage of State capital habeas cases pending in the Federal district courts for more than 3 years rose from 20.2 percent to 46.2 percent; in the Federal courts of appeals, the number of pending State capital habeas cases rose from 185 to 284; and the median time from filing of a notice of appeal to disposition for State capital habeas cases increased from 10 months to 15 months.
It is noteworthy that all of these increases in backlog and delay have taken place after the enactment of the AEDPA in 1996--a law that some critics of habeas reform assert has solved all of the problems with Federal habeas.
At the most recent hearing on the Streamlined Procedures Act, before the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 16, Ron Eisenberg, Deputy District Attorney for Philadelphia, summarized the problems and delays with Federal habeas review that he encounters in the course of his work. He stated:
I have served as a prosecutor for 24 years. I am the supervisor of the Law Division of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, a group of 60 lawyers. Many of those lawyers handle regular appeals in the Pennsylvania appellate courts. But more and more of our attorneys must devote themselves full time to Federal habeas corpus litigation. In the last decade, the number of lawyers employed exclusively on habeas work has increased 400%. Despite the limits supposedly imposed by law, the only certain limit on the Federal habeas process as it is currently administered is the expiration of the defendant's sentence.
But that leaves ample opportunity and motivation for litigation, because the cases that reach Federal habeas review involve the most dangerous criminals, who receive the most serious sentences--not just death penalties, but non-capital murders, rape, violent robberies and burglaries, brutal beatings, and shootings.
Too often, discussion of the proper scope of Federal habeas corpus review is really just a debate about the value of the death penalty, and the justness of imprisonment and punishment generally. To be sure, many Federal courts seem flatly unwilling to affirm capital sentences. In Pennsylvania, for example, almost every single contested death sentence litigated on habeas--over 20 cases in the last decade--has been thrown out by Federal judges; only one has been upheld.
But the primary problem is one of process, not results. The truth is that, whether or not they end up reversing a conviction, Federal habeas courts drag out litigation for years of utterly unjustifiable delay, creating exorbitant costs for the state and endless pain for the victims.
This data and testimony confirm what many capital litigators and judges have told me is, in their view, an obvious and uncontestable fact: the problems with Federal habeas corpus are systematic, they are severe, and they and are growing worse. Yet even this information does not really tell us why this problem matters--why ordinary people, rather than just civil servants and judges, should be concerned about the functioning of the Federal habeas system. For that information, it is necessary to look at the impact of the current habeas system on the surviving victims of violent crimes. The current system and the delays that it engenders, particularly in capital cases, often are grossly cruel to these individuals. The perpetual litigation of Federal habeas cases denies the surviving family of a murder victim closure--it forces them to continually relive the crime, rather than be able to put the terrible events behind them.
Two parents of murder victims testified at hearings in this Congress about how they have been treated by the Federal habeas system. Their testimony makes a compelling case that this system is broken and in need of reform. And it highlights why we should all be concerned. What these individuals and their families--people who had already suffered so much--have experienced at the hands of the Federal courts should offend every American.
The first witness to testify was Carol Fornoff, who addressed the House Judiciary Committee's Crime Subcommittee on June 7 of last year. Mrs. Fornoff's 13-year-old daughter, Christy Ann, was murdered in 1984. Almost every Arizonan who lived in the State at the time knows the name Christy Ann Fornoff. Christy's murder was an event that shattered people's sense of security, that made them afraid to let their children play outside or go out of their sight. I remember the case vividly. And I was stunned when I learned last year that the man who killed Christy, although sentenced to death by the State of Arizona, still is litigating his conviction and sentence in Federal court. His Federal proceedings began in 1992--14 years ago. Just think about how long ago 1992 is. President Bush's father was the President at the time. Bill Clinton was the Governor of Arkansas. Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait is closer in time to that date than the U.S. invasion of Iraq is to today. And yet the case of Christy's killer remains in Federal court.
Mrs. Fornoff made a powerful case for why we should find this unacceptable. She described the suffering of her family, how this decades-long litigation has denied them closure. I do not think that anyone who heard Mrs. Fornoff's testimony would assert that there are no problems with the present system. Allow me to quote the main portion of Mrs. Fornoff's statement to the House Crime Subcommittee:
My husband Roger and I are here today to tell you about our daughter, Christy Ann Fornoff. Christy was our youngest daughter. She was a loving child, very gentle. She often seemed to make friends with the kids at school who weren't so popular. She was very dear to us.
In 1984, our family was living in Tempe, Arizona, and Christy was 13 years old. Christy and her brother Jason both held jobs as newscarriers for the Phoenix Gazette, a local newspaper. Roger and I believed that jobs like this would teach our children responsibility, while also helping them earn a little money.
After dinner on Wednesday evening, May 9, 1984, both Christy and Jason had been invited to go jumping on trampolines. Jason went, but Christy had just had a cast removed from her ankle. Instead, she went to collect on newspaper subscriptions at an apartment complex near our house.
Christy delivered papers at this complex every day, it was just two short blocks from our house. Nevertheless, it was getting dusk, so I went with Christy; she rode her brother's bike while I walked alongside with our little dog.
At the first apartment that Christy visited, I was stopped by a neighbor who wanted to talk about our cute dog. Christy went on to the next apartment alone, and I followed a few minutes later. When I got there, the bike was outside, but there was no Christy. I started calling her name, but there was no answer. Our dog started to get nervous. After a few minutes, I ran home, and came back with my daughter's boyfriend. I asked the people at the apartment that Christy had gone to if they had seen her, and they said yes, ten minutes ago, and that she had left. I knew that Christy wouldn't just leave her brother's bike there.
I ran home again. My husband had just arrived at home and I told him that Christy was missing. He immediately called the police, and then he went to the apartment complex and began knocking on doors. Outside of one apartment, people standing nearby told us don't bother knocking on that door, that is the maintenance man, and he is looking for Christy. Shortly after, the maintenance man joined Roger in the search for Christy.
That night, police helicopters with searchlights examined every corner of our neighborhood. Our son drove up and down every alley in the area on his motorcycle. Christy's newspaper-collections book was found over a fence near the apartment complex. But no one found Christy.
Two days later, a policeman knocked at our door. Christy's body had been discovered wrapped in a sheet, lying behind a trash dumpster in the apartment complex. We were absolutely devasted. We had been hoping against hope, and couldn't believe that our beautiful daughter was dead.
Christy's body was taken to a morgue so that an autopsy could be performed. On Sunday, which was Mother's day, we were finally able to view Christy's body at the funeral home. Mother's Day has never been the same for me since.
Ten days after Christy's body was found, the maintenance man at the apartment complex--the same man who supposedly had been looking for her the night that she disappeared--was arrested for her murder. Christy had been sexually assaulted and suffocated. There was blood, semen, and hair on Christy's body that was consistent with that of the maintenance man. Vomit on Christy's face matched vomit in the maintenance man's closet. Fibers on Christy's body matched the carpet and a blanket in the maintenance man's apartment. And police found Christy's hair inside of the apartment. We knew who had killed our daughter.
In 1985, the maintenance man was convicted of Christy's murder and sentenced to death. The conviction was upheld in a lengthy opinion by the Arizona Supreme Court. The killer raised many more challenges, but his last state appeals were finally rejected in 1992. By that time, we already felt like the case had been going on a long time--it had been seven years. We couldn't imagine that the killer would have any more challenges to argue.
But in 1992, the killer filed another challenge to his conviction in the United States District Court. That challenge then remained in that one court for another 7 years! Finally, in November of 1999, the district court dismissed the case. But then a few years later, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sent the case back to the district court for more hearings. Today, the case remains before that same Federal district court.
It has now been over 21 years since Christy was murdered. By this fall, the case will have been in the Federal courts for longer than Christy was ever alive.
I cannot describe to you how painful our experience with the court system has been. I cannot believe that just one court took over 7 years to decide our case.
Some might ask why we can't just move on, and forget about the killer's appeals. But it doesn't work that way. She was our daughter, our beautiful little girl, and he took her away. We want to know if he was properly convicted. We want to know, will his conviction be thrown out? Will there be another trial? I cannot imagine testifying at a trial again. And would they even be able to convict this man again? It has been 21 years. How many witnesses are still here, is all of the evidence even still available? Could this man one day be released? Could I run into him on the street, a free man--the man who assaulted and killed our little daughter? The courts have turned this case into an open wound for our family--a wound that has not been allowed to heal for 21 years.
I understand that the Federal government has the right to create such a system. It can let the Federal courts hear any challenge to a state conviction, at any time, with no limits. My question to you, Mr. Chairman, is why would we want such a system? Why would we want a system that forces someone like me to relive my daughter's murder, again and again and again? My daughter's killer already litigated all of the challenges to his case in the state courts. Why should we let him bring all of the same legal claims again, for another round of lawsuits, in the Federal courts? Why should this killer get a second chance? My daughter never had a second chance.
I understand that people are concerned about innocent people being behind bars, but that is not what my daughter's killer is suing about. Right now, the issue that is being litigated in the Federal courts is whether the trial court made a mistake by allowing the jury to hear that he told a prison counselor that he ``didn't mean to kill the little Fornoff girl.'' He claims that the counselor was like his doctor, and that the statement is private, even though he said it in front of other prisoners. Earlier this year, a Federal court held a hearing on whether the killer had a right to prevent the jury from hearing about this statement. But the statement is irrelevant. Whether or not he said it, the evidence of his guilt--the hairs, the fibers, the bodily fluids--is overwhelming. The issue that the killer is suing about was already resolved before by the Arizona Supreme Court--over 17 years ago. Yet here we are, 21 years after my daughter died, arguing about the same legal technicalities.
People might say that it is worth the cost to let the killer sue over every issue like this again and again. I don't think that it is worth the cost. When you and your colleagues are writing laws, Mr. Chairman, please think about people like me. Please think about the fact that every time that there is another appeal, another ruling, another hearing, I am forced to think about my daughter's death. Every time, I am forced to wonder, if only Christy hadn't had the cast on her ankle--if only she could have gone on the trampoline that evening, she would still be alive today. Every time that I hear a helicopter, I am terrified--I think of the police helicopters searching for Christy on the night that she disappeared. Every time that I hear a motorcycle, I think of my son, searching for Christy. Every time that the courts reopen this case, I am forced to wonder, why didn't I follow Christy to that second apartment--why did I let that neighbor stop me to talk? Every time, I am forced to think about how scared my little girl must have been when she died.
I urge you, Mr. Chairman, to do what you can to fix this system. My family and I have forgiven our daughter's murderer. But we cannot forgive a justice system that would treat us this way.
Another witness who testified before Congress last year on the need for Federal habeas reform is Mary Ann Hughes of Chino Hills, CA. Mrs. Hughes's son Christopher, then 11 years old, was murdered in 1983. As in the Fornoff case, the killer was captured, convicted, and sentenced to death--and is still litigating his case in Federal court today. Mrs. Hughes testified before the House Judiciary Committee's Crime Subcommittee on November 10, 2005. This is what she said:
Christopher was a beautiful little boy. He had just completed the fifth grade at a local Catholic school. His classmates later planted a tree in his memory at the school. Chris swam on the swim team and dreamed of swimming for the University of Southern California and being in the Olympics. He loved his younger brother, and in typical brotherly fashion would tease him one minute and be his best friend the next. Chris' younger brother is now 28-years-old. He has missed Chris every day since he was murdered. Our younger son was not yet born when Chris was murdered. I was pregnant during part of Cooper's trial with our third son. When he was born we gave him the middle name Christopher after the brother he never knew. Both boys have only in the last few years been able to face what happened to their brother. As the years have passed, we are reminded that Chris never got to finish grammar school, go to a prom, marry, have children of his own, or pursue his dreams.
On Saturday, June 4, 1983, Chris asked me for permission to spend the night at the home of his friend, Josh Ryen. We lived in what was then a very rural neighborhood. Josh was the only boy nearby who was really close to Chris' age and so they formed a bond. We were good friends with Josh's parents, Doug and Peggy Ryen. The Ryens lived just up the road from our home with their 10-year-old daughter Jessica and eight-year-old Josh. The last time I saw Chris alive he and Josh were riding off on their bicycles toward Josh's house. They were excitedly waving because they were so happy I had given Chris permission to spend that night with Josh. The only thing Chris had to remember was to be home Sunday in time for church. The next time I saw Chris was in a photograph on an autopsy table during Cooper's preliminary hearing.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Cooper had been hiding in a house in Chino Hills just 126 yards from the Ryen's home. He had escaped two days earlier from a minimum security facility at a nearby prison. When Cooper was arrested for burglary in Los Angeles he used a false identity. His identity and criminal past should have caught up with him before he was wrongly assigned to the minimum security portion of the prison. The prison, however, mishandled the processing of an outstanding warrant for Cooper for escape from custody in Pennsylvania. He was being held pending trial for the kidnap and rape of a teenage girl who interrupted him while he was burglarizing a home. While staying at the hide-out house near the Ryens, Cooper had been calling former girlfriends, trying to get them to help him get out of the area. A manhunt was under way for Cooper, but the rural community surrounding the prison was never notified of the escape.
The failure of the California prison-system to protect the surrounding community from a dangerous felon marked the beginning of our family and community's being let down by our government. Within a few hours of Cooper's escape, prison officials realized who Cooper was and how dangerous he was. Nevertheless, they still failed to alert the community that he was at large. Our frustration and disappointment with our government's failings has only grown since that time as Cooper's case continues to wind its way down a seemingly endless path through our judicial system.
The morning following the murders, I remember being mad at Chris because he had not arrived home on time as promised so we could attend church. Then my anger turned to worry. I sent my husband Bill up to the Ryen home. He saw that the horses had not been fed, and that the Ryen station wagon was gone.
Uncharacteristically, the kitchen door was locked, so my husband walked around the house. He looked inside the sliding glass door of the Ryen's master bedroom. He saw blood everywhere. Peggy and Chris were lying on the ground and Josh was lying next to them, showing signs of life but unable to move. My husband could not open the sliding glass door, so he ran and kicked open the kitchen door. As he went into the master bedroom, he found 10-year-old Jessica lying on the floor in fetal position in the doorway, dead. He saw Doug and Peggy nude, bloodied, and lifeless. When he went to our son Chris, he was cold to the touch. Bill then knew that Christopher was dead.
My husband then forced himself to have enough presence of mind to get help for Josh, who miraculously survived despite having his throat slit from ear to ear. Josh, only eight years old, lay next to his dead, naked mother throughout the night, knowing from the silence and from the smell of blood that everyone else was dead. He placed his fingers into his throat, which kept him from bleeding to death during the 12 hours before my husband rescued him.
Everyone inside the home had been repeatedly struck by a hatchet and attacked with a knife. Christopher had 25 identifiable wounds made by a hatchet and a knife. Many of them were on his hands, which he must have put against his head to protect himself from Kevin Cooper's blows. Some were made after he was already dead. No one should know this kind of horror. That it happened to a child makes it even worse.
The killer had lifted Jessica's nightgown and carved on her chest after she died. The killer also helped himself to a beer from the Ryen's refrigerator. We wondered what kind of monster would attack a father, mother, and three children with a hatchet, and then go have a beer. That question has long since been answered, but 22 years later we are still waiting for justice.
The escaped prisoner who committed this crime was caught 2 months later. He admitted that he had stayed in the house next door but denied any involvement in the murders. According to the California Supreme Court, however, the evidence of defendant's guilt was ``overwhelming.'' Not only had the defendant stayed at the vacant house right next door at the time of the murders; the hatchet used in the murders was taken from the vacant house; shoe prints in the Ryen house matched those in the vacant house and were from a type of shoe issued to prisoners; bloody items, including a prison-issue button, were found in the vacant house; prison-issue tobacco was found in the Ryen station wagon, which was recovered in Long Beach; and the defendant's blood type and hair matched that found in the Ryen house. The defendant was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death in 1985, and the California Supreme Court upheld the defendant's conviction and sentence in 1991.
The defendant's Federal habeas proceedings began shortly thereafter, and they continue to this day--23 years after the murders. In 2000, the defendant asked the courts for DNA testing of a blood spot in the Ryen house, a t-shirt near the crime scene, and the tobacco found in the car. Despite the overwhelming evidence of his guilt, the courts allowed more testing. All three tests found that the blood and saliva matched the defendant, to a degree of certainty of 1 in 310 billion. Blood on the t-shirt matched both the defendant and one of the victims.
Mrs. Hughes went on to describe, in her November 10 testimony, the impact of this crime and the attenuated legal proceedings on her family:
``While I know that Cooper is the one who murdered my son, I will always bear the guilt of having given Chris permission to spend the night at the Ryen's house. I will always feel responsible for sending my husband to find the bodies of our son and the Ryen family. It is a guilt similar to the guilt that Josh feels to this day because he had begged me to let Chris spend the night. He thinks that Chris would still be alive if he had not spent the night. Of course, Cooper is responsible for all the pain and suffering that he inflicted that night and the continued pain that has followed, but it does not help stop the pain and guilt. Kevin Cooper is still here over 22 years later--still proclaiming his innocence and complaining about our judicial system.
As Josh explained when he finally got a chance to speak to the Judge about how he has been affected by Cooper's crimes: Cooper never shuts up. We continually get to hear more bogus claims and more comments from Cooper and his attorneys. Over the years I have learned to know when something has happened in Cooper's never-ending legal case: the calls from the media start up again, or, at times, the media trucks just park in front of our house. We have no opportunity to put this behind us--to heal or to try to find peace--because everything is about Cooper. Our system is so grotesquely skewed to Cooper's benefit and seemingly incapable of letting California carry out its judgment against him.
[The] judicial system so out of balance in favor of the convicted that it literally enables them to victimize their victims and their families all over again through the Federal judicial system. We understood the rights of an accused and that Cooper's rights took precedence over ours as he stood trial. His trial was moved to another County because of the publicity surrounding the horrendous crimes. I had to drive a long distance to another County to watch the trial as it could not take place in our County. Cooper's defense attorney spent an entire year preparing to defend Cooper at trial. Everything was about Cooper's rights and none of our sensibilities or concerns could be dignified because Cooper had to have a fair trial. We understood and we waited for justice. In California, Cooper's appeal was automatic because he had received the death penalty for his crimes. The appeal took six years to conclude. We understood the need for a thorough appeal and we waited for justice.
By 1991, Cooper had received a fair trial and his appeal had been concluded. The California Supreme Court aptly observed that the evidence against Cooper, both in volume and consistency, was ``overwhelming''. Since then, we have waited and watched as the United States Supreme Court has denied Cooper's eight petitions for writ of certiorari and two petitions for writ of habeas corpus, and the California Supreme Court has denied Cooper's seven habeas corpus petitions and three motions to reopen Cooper's appeal. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of Cooper's first Federal habeas petition, and denied him permission to file a successive petition in 2001, and again in 2003. But then, on Friday night, February 6, 2004, Cooper's attorneys filed an application with the Ninth Circuit requesting permission to file a successive habeas petition.
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit denied Cooper's application to file a successive petition on Sunday, February 8, 2004. Cooper was scheduled to be executed at one minute after midnight on Tuesday, February 10, 2004. On Monday, February 9, 2004, my husband and I made the trip to Northern California from our home in Southern California. Relatives of the extended Ryen family flew in from all over the Country. Josh Ryen, now 30, left for dead at the age of eight, his entire immediate family murdered, drove hundreds of miles to reach the prison to witness the execution of Cooper. We all expected that finally, this case would be brought to a close.
Mrs. Hughes went on to describe, however, how on the eve of the execution, the en banc Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sua sponte reviewed the denial of the petitioner's successive petition application and reversed the three-judge panel. The en banc decision stayed the killer's execution and permitted him to pursue a second round of Federal habeas-corpus litigation. This second round still is going on today--15 years after the California Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence, and 23 years after the murders.
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