Kim Kardashian West Visits Inmate Kevin Cooper on Death Row

Kim Kardashian West is continuing to fight for justice for incarcerated people who are innocent. To that end, she recently met with a person who is currently on death row. Kardashian West, 38, took a trip to San Quentin State Prison in California to visit Kevin Cooper, TMZ reported. Cooper has been sentenced to death row after he was convicted of killing Peggy and Doug Ryen and their daughter, Jessica, in 1983, the Los Angeles Times reported. He is also accused of killing 11-year-old Christopher Hughes, who was staying at the Ryen home during the time of the murder. Joshua Ryen was the only one who survived, according to the publication. Cooper, 61, has maintained his innocence.

"I had an emotional meeting with Kevin Cooper yesterday at San Quentin’s death row. I found him to be thoughtful and honest and I believe he is innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted,” Kardashian tweeted about the meeting on Thursday, along with a photo of her and Cooper.

“I am hopeful that Kevin will be exonerated since DNA testing has now been ordered on Kevin’s case and I remain grateful to Governor [Gavin] Newsom for ending capital punishment in California,” she wrote in a second tweet.

In October 2018, Kardashian tweeted at then California Governor Jerry Brown to look into Cooper’s case after Cooper said he was framed for the murders, NBC News reported. In December 2018, Brown ordered DNA tests on a shirt, towel, and hatchet linked to the murders, according to NBC News. Newsom also ordered additional DNA testing on a button, hair, fingernail scrapings, and blood from the victims, according to the publication.

Before the murders, Cooper had escaped from the California Institution for Men in Chino, California, when he was 25 years old, the LA Times reported. Joshua Ryen told investigators during the initial investigation that three white or Latino men had murdered his family, and two witnesses claimed they saw three white men driving the family’s station wagon away from the home on the day of the murders, according to NBC News. Cooper, however, is Black.

Prosecutors said that Cooper was in the Ryen’s home and the station wagon. Cooper’s blood and one of the victim’s blood was found on a shirt near the home, NBC News reported. Mary Ann Hughes, the mother of Christopher Hughes, told TMZ that she believes Kardashian West “has not read all of the actual evidence” and claimed that Cooper’s attorneys "are using her for her reality show status because they can't use the truth to try to help Kevin Cooper.”

"It makes me feel sick to my stomach and I pity her. For what she's doing to us, there's nothing to justify what she's doing to us, the immense pain she is causing us," Hughes told TMZ. In May, CNN reported that Kardashian West had partnered with the 90 Days of Freedom campaign, which was started by her personal attorney, Brittany K. Barnett and attorney MiAngel Cody. Over the past three months, the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star has been working to commute the life sentences of 17 incarcerated people serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.

"Kim has been funding this project and (has been) a very important supporter of our 90 Days of Freedom campaign as part of the First Step Act, which President Trump signed into law last year," Cody told the news station at the time. "We've been going around the country in courtrooms and asking judges to release these inmates."

Last year, the reality TV star met with President Donald Trump and successfully urged him to commute the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving a life sentence in prison for a nonviolent drug offense and money laundering charges, NBC News previously reported.

"Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades," the White House said in a statement at the time. "While this administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance."

During an interview with Vogue magazine in April, Kardashian West said she is studying to become a lawyer and plans to take the California bar exam in 2022. In March, Newsom halted the death penalty and granted a reprieve for the 737 people placed on death row, The New York Times previously reported. The last execution occurred in 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen, 76, was put to death, according to The Times.

"Our death penalty system has been — by any measure — a failure," Newsom said in a statement to NPR. "It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. But most of all, the death penalty is absolute, irreversible and irreparable in the event of a human error."

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.