Greg Cooper

County of Conviction:

Convicted of:





case details

Greg Cooper was wrongly convicted of arson and mayhem. His conviction was the product of ineffective assistance of defense counsel, junk forensic science, and false accusation.

For many years, Greg Cooper and Andy Chavez owned land next to each other.  Chavez had an access easement through Cooper’s property and a right to use water from Cooper’s well.  However, the two did not always get along.  

On more than one occasion, Chavez found the narrow easement blocked by debris or vehicles.  Chavez also reported broken irrigation lines and a loss of water due to the well overflowing. He blamed these issues on Cooper and even reported Cooper to the police but did not get a restraining order against Cooper. Instead, Chavez kept a journal about his experience with Cooper and the ongoing problems on his plot of land. 

Then, on June 29, 2005, around 6:00 p.m., Andy Chavez called for help because he sustained serious burn injuries.  Chavez told police he approached Cooper about blocking the easement, and Cooper, in a fit of rage, grabbed a spray can and lighter and proceeded to ignite a fire while holding onto Chavez’s moving truck with his elbows. After multiple tries, the fire ignited, burning Chavez and the inside of Chavez’s truck. Chavez drove away from the property before calling for help. However, Chavez’s story about how the incident occurred has been very inconsistent.

Cooper has always maintained his innocence, providing evidence he was not at his property at the time Chavez received the burns and was physically incapable of holding onto a moving truck while lighting a fire. In addition to his alibi, Cooper has presented various experts to prove his innocence. Some of the experts explain the burn patterns do not align with Chavez’s story and attack the prosecution’s incomplete attempt at recreating the fire. Recently, another expert has analyzed the trace evidence once used to convict Cooper and discovered foundational errors in Chavez’s story and the prosecution’s case. 

Cooper, through the help of his prior attorneys and these experts, discovered an alternative theory and motive for Chavez’s injuries: a horrible bulldozer accident left Chavez burned and an opportunity for Chavez to control the land. 

Because Cooper has maintained his innocence, he was denied parole six times.  Fortunately, at his seventh parole hearing on January 19, 2024, the Board found him suitable for parole. On May 22, 2024, Greg Cooper walked free from Avenal State Prison after more than 17 years.  

Greg Cooper and Raquel Barilla stand outside the prison moments after his release
Greg Cooper asked to pump gas after his release from prison

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