California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, May 18.

Nicholas Kristof asks whether a death row inmate was framed.
The butchering of Northern California's ancient redwoods.
And Los Angeles as capital of the second Gilded Age.

A Prisoner Framed


For years, supporters of the death row inmate Kevin Cooper have pleaded for his case to be revisited.

They've included the American Bar Association, a former California attorney general, two former California Supreme Court justices, and four California law school deans.

Now, a devastating report in the N.Y. Times by Nicholas Kristof is intensifying pressure on Gov. Jerry Brown to act. "I’ve never come across a case in America as outrageous as Kevin Cooper’s," Kristof wrote.

Cooper was convicted in the murders of four people in a Chino Hills home in 1983. Kristof suggests that sheriff’s deputies ignored evidence pointing to three white attackers, and instead pursued "a black man with a huge Afro who fit their narrative of an incorrigible criminal."

Kristof called out both Brown and Kamala Harris, who was state attorney general before becoming a U.S. senator, for "refusing" to allow potentially exonerating DNA testing.

Cooper is expected to be among the first prisoners executed if California resumes the death penalty.

Read Kristof's report here.



The median price of a California home is well over half a million dollars, more than double that of the average home in the rest of the country. But California includes housing markets as distinct as Santa Monica and Siskiyou County. Here’s a tour of what $500,000 gets you across the state.


California’s birth rate fell to its lowest level in at least 100 years in 2017. The fertility rate was roughly 12 babies per 1,000 residents, a little more than half what it was in 1990. Among the reasons cited by experts: women putting off parenthood for financial or personal reasons. When fertility rates are too low, a society faces difficulties replacing its workforce and supporting its older adults.


Investigators cleared Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of accusations that she drunkenly groped a male staff member in 2014. Even so, she has been removed from all of her committee posts for using vulgar language around staff. Garcia was once at the forefront of California's #MeToo movement.


In order to survive, businesses once had to sell goods or services above cost. Now the strategy is spend big, grow fast, and worry about profits later. California's tech industry abounds with fast-growing yet unprofitable companies. Uber reportedly lost $4.5 billion last year. Snap lost $3.4 billion.

Northern California


Fresno is California's capital of domestic violence. With roughly 14 calls a day reporting physical violence to partners, the city has the highest such rate by far among large cities in the state. And it's on the rise. "We are overwhelmed by domestic violence in our community," the police chief said. "The number of domestic violence cases we have is mind-boggling."


In February, Elissa Ennis accused her ex-boyfriend, 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, of punching her repeatedly, leaving her with a ruptured eardrum. On Thursday, in dramatic court testimony, she recanted the whole story, saying she fabricated the allegations in an extortion ploy that got out of control. Prosecutors aren't so sure.


Northern California's old-growth forests are facing an increase in the butchering of ancient redwoods by poachers. Park officials say thieves use chainsaws to carve out the trees' burls, gnarly protrusions that are prized by woodworkers for their intricate patterns. Rangers recently arrested a Humboldt County man and accused him of cutting massive chunks from the base of an old-growth redwood.


A classy Nob Hill apartment, a whimsical circa-1890 Victorian, and a two-bedroom in West Portal with a lovely yard. Here's what $3,500 rents you in San Francisco right now.

Southern California


Americans are living in a second Gilded Age, and its capital is Los Angeles, where homes worth tens of millions of dollars look out over a city of middle class workers who can barely afford shelter and homeless encampments whose ranks increase daily. “Trump is the perfect figure for the new Gilded Age," an author said. "He’s like something out of Mark Twain."


In 1998, a jogger found a newborn baby buried alive in the foothills of Altadena, his umbilical cord still attached. The infant was on the verge of death. "Please don't die," Azita Milanian said to the baby. "I will never leave you. I love you." This week, 20 years later, the pair were reunited. "I was waiting for you for 20 years," a tearful Milanian said.


San Diego State University decided to keep the word Aztec as its nickname but create a more culturally sensitive version of its mascot after a charged debate over whether such symbols perpetuate ethnic stereotyping. Scores of schools across California have eliminated their Native American-themed nicknames and mascots over the decades.


A southern white rhino has become pregnant through artificial insemination at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Researchers hope to learn whether the rhino, Victoria, could be a suitable surrogate mother for an endangered cousin, the northern white rhino, of which only two , females remain after decades of poaching.


Here are five newsletter items that got big views over the past

Californians watching the volcanic eruption in Hawaii should remember that California has volcanoes of its own. Geologists consider three of them to be a “very high threat.”
Elon Musk's Boring Company has nearly finished its first tunnel under Los Angeles, part of a vision to avoid car traffic with an underground electric transit network.
Decades before the Golden State Killer spread terror across California, the suspect in the case, Joseph DeAngelo, watched two men rape his younger sister, family members said.
Allison Mack, like many actresses in Hollywood, sought spiritual guidance outside the mainstream. But 12 years after checking out a women's empowerment seminar, she's been accused of being a sex cult slaver.
A 140-acre bluff, a "water temple," and an inn on Mt. Tamalpais. Here are 10 trails around the Bay Area with scenic endings.

Thanks for reading!

The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times, and edited by Andrew Zahler, a former staff editor for the same.

Thanks for reading!

The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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