[Pnews] Kevin Cooper - Thanksgiving on Death Row

Prisoner News 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 
penalty case—mine.

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 
murdering me.

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 
collective humanity.

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 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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