According to various reports on the controversial issue of Kamala Harris allegedly having opposed the introduction of DNA evidence in the case of a man on death row, much of the allegations against Harris appear to be true.
During Wednesday night’s Democrat presidential debates, candidate Tulsi Gabbard fiercely clashed with Harris, who she accused of having “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row,” until being forced by the courts to allow the inclusion.
While the prisoner in question, Kevin Cooper, has not been found innocent and remains in custody, Harris appears to have blocked DNA testing in the case while she served as California AG.
As Cooper continues to fight his conviction, Harris has seemingly changed her position on the issue. However, her competitors and critics continue to point to actions taken while serving as a prosecutor, including the incarceration of “over 1,500 people” for marijuana.
The Sacramento Bee calls Gabbard’s claim that Harris blocked evidence accurate.
During Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard went after California Sen. Kamala Harris over her record as the state’s attorney general and San Francisco’s district attorney.
Biden alluded to a crime lab scandal that involved her office and resulted in more than 1,000 drug cases being dismissed. Gabbard claimed Harris “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until she was forced to do so.”
Both of these statements are accurate.
Breitbart also calls the claim “mostly true”
CLAIM: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so.”
VERDICT: MOSTLY TRUE.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) accused fellow Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris of being a cruel prosecutor, putting “over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations” and then laughing about having smoked marijuana herself.
Gabbard then added: “She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so.”
That is largely true, as the Sacramento Bee noted (original links):
In February, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered new DNA testing in the 1983 murder case of Kevin Cooper. Cooper came within hours of execution in 2004 after being charged with the murders of an adult couple and two children. Harris opposed the testing when she was the state’s attorney general.
She has since said she supports DNA testing and encouraged Newsom to approve Cooper’s clemency request. She did not offer specifics on why she did not approve the testing during her tenure.
In response to a request for comment, Harris’s campaign pointed to a past statement where the senator called a New York Times columnist last year, telling him, “I feel awful about this.”
Harris later reversed her position and supported the DNA testing, the San Francisco Chronicle noted at the time.
The inmate, Kevin Cooper, has not been freed, as the DNA testing is still continuing and it is not yet clear whether he is innocent, though many believe him to be.
The Bee also noted that another claim against Harris — this time, by former vice president Joe Biden — that a federal judge freed 1,000 inmates after it discovered that a San Francisco crime lab had misused evidence, and that then-District Attorney Harris had failed to reveal that the evidence had possibly been tainted.
That, too, was true.
The Washington Post recalled earlier this year: “[I]t was revealed in March 2010 that Harris and her staff had not informed defense lawyers that evidence from the police-run crime lab might have been tainted. A judge ruled in May 2010 that Harris had failed to inform defendants as required by law. Harris said … she took responsibility and made ‘no excuses’ for the failure.”
Harris is now running on a platform that includes criminal justice reform and she says she opposes the death penalty.