[Pnews] Kevin Cooper - Thanksgiving on Death Row
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 24 10:27:58 EST 2017
Thanksgiving on Death Row
November 22, 2017
/Editor’s note: Kevin Cooper was convicted of a 1983 quadruple murder in
a trial in which evidence that might have exonerated him was withheld
from the defense. His case was scrutinized in a June 19 New York Times
by Nicholas Kristof. Visit savekevincooper.org
<http://savekevincooper.org/> for more information./
DEATH ROW, SAN QUENTIN, Calif.—As I sit here in a 4½-by-11-foot cage on
Thanksgiving Day, I first and foremost am thankful to be alive. On Feb.
10, 2004, I came within 3 hours and 42 minutes of being strapped down to
a gurney, tortured with lethal poison and murdered by volunteer
prison-guard executioners. So, yes, I am very thankful to be alive. I am
also very thankful for all the people—my legal team, friends, family,
supporters and activists working to end the death penalty—who have
helped make my being alive possible.
I have been in a cage like this, with two feet of space between the side
of the bed and the wall, for most of my adult life, for murders I did
not commit. I eat prison slop for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the
guards look up my butt at least once a day to make sure I don’t have
contraband when I leave this cage.
I have been on death row in the state of California for more than 32
years, having come to this place in May 1985, and I have been fighting
for my life ever since. This modern-day plantation in which I am forced
to live is a very dirty and inhumane place for any human being.
After my stay of execution in 2004, I went on to suffer from
post-traumatic stress for years due to that sick ritual of death this
prison put me through. No human being should ever have to endure what I
have, not even if they are guilty of the crime they were convicted of
I am innocent, and my fate now lies in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown. On
Feb. 17, 2016, Norman Hile, my pro bono attorney from the prestigious
law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, filed my petition for
clemency in the office of Gov. Brown. I have respectfully asked the
governor and others to look at my case with an open mind, outside the
legal box that has me close to being killed for murders of which I am
innocent. Doing this is truly important, especially now that many
Americans are learning from frequent news reports the truth about
America’s criminal justice system and some of the people who work within it.
People have learned that this system is dishonest, and that some of its
investigators, prosecutors and judges cannot be trusted and are more
concerned with winning cases or with following their political ideology
than with truth or justice. This is especially true in my case.
Start with the fact that for the first time in the history of the death
penalty in California, as well as within the history of the 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals, 11 federal circuit court judges dissented in one death
To show their concern as to why my case should be heard on its merits
before I am executed, six of the 11 stated these words of dissent in my
last appeal: “Public confidence in the proper administration of the
death penalty depends on the integrity of the process followed by the
state. … [Twenty-four] years of flawed proceedings are as good as no
proceedings at all.”
The other five judges, showing their concern about the truth not being
told in my case, stated: “The state of California may be about to
execute an innocent man.” (One of them, Judge William Fletcher, later
said in a speech at New York University Law School: “[Kevin Cooper] is
on death row because the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department framed him.”)
A 12th judge wrote in a separate opinion: “Significant evidence bearing
on Cooper’s culpability has been lost, destroyed or left unpursued,
including, for example, blood-covered coveralls belonging to a potential
suspect who was a convicted murderer, and a bloody t-shirt discovered
alongside the road near the crime scene. … Countless other alleged
problems with the handling and disclosure of evidence and the integrity
of the forensic testing and investigation undermine confidence in the
There have been many judges in other cases who have turned a blind eye
to the truth and let a poor person get executed, even when there were
serious doubts about that person’s guilt, but it is rare for judges to
speak out against a possible execution. If these 12 judges are ignored,
what will happen to me will not be my execution but my murder at the
hands of the state of California.
The political ideology of many judges allows them to ignore truth and
injustice. Politics—the politics of life and death—do play a very real
part in this country’s criminal justice system. That is why Republicans
in Washington, D.C., would not allow President Obama to replace Antonin
Scalia on the Supreme Court [after his death]. This truth may never be
admitted in words, but actions speak louder than words. Among these
actions are the continuing oppression of people like me, who are poor
and fighting for our lives from within this rotten criminal justice system.
So while finality, rather than justice, may be what certain judges are
more concerned with, it is my hope that others in positions of
authority—in particular the governor—will see the miscarriage of justice
in my case and stand up and speak out to prevent this state from
What makes my case unique in many ways is the fact that a dozen federal
judges did just that—they stood up and spoke out against my questionable
conviction—based on /all/ the evidence and not just what the state
claims after hiding, lying, destroying, tampering with, withholding and
manipulating the evidence, all of which is exposed in my clemency
petition to Gov. Brown.
Just because other judges in my case chose not to acknowledge the truth
about it doesn’t mean I’m guilty. This can be said for all the people
who have been exonerated for crimes, including murder, they did not
commit. Certain judges in their cases upheld bogus convictions and then
closed the cases.
I am respectfully asking you, no matter who you are, no matter your
religion, your political party, your skin color or your sexual
orientation, no matter what your job is, your economic class, or
anything else that makes you the individual you are, to please get
involved in this fight to save my life, as well as the fight for our
While I may indeed be murdered by the state of California in the
not-too- distant future, this fight is not just about me. It is much
bigger than me or any one person. It is about us as a people bringing to
an end the historic and horrific crime against humanity that is only
done against America’s poor people, especially its black people like me.
My legal team and I have petitioned the governor to grant me an
innocence investigation so that he and everyone else can learn the truth
about the law enforcement misconduct in my case, as well as DNA testing
that we hope will reveal the real killer’s DNA and exonerate me.
We are asking the governor to grant me a reprieve so that if this state
resumes executions, I will not be executed. The state has me marked for
death and has me at the top of the execution list, in part because it
did not torture and murder me in 2004, and subsequently because of the
attention my case is now receiving, with many people, including several
jurors who convicted me, believing in my innocence.
There is entirely too much sadness and pain and inhumanity inside these
modern-day prison/plantations to go into any one essay. Just know that I
am thankful on this Thanksgiving Day that my spirit has endured and is
keeping me alive, when all around me is death.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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