The Murder of Kevin Cooper

Kevin Cooper

AS I WRITE this to you, I am in a 4 1/2 by 11 foot long cage, with two feet between the side of the bed and the wall for me to walk in. I have been in a cage like this for most of my adult life for murders that 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 that I don’t have contraband when I leave this cage.

I, Kevin Cooper, have been on death row in the state on California for 32 years, going on 33. I came to this place in May of 1985, and I have been fighting for my life ever since.

This modern day plantation that I am forced to live in is a very dirty and inhumane place for any human being. On February 9, 2004 I came within three hours and 42 minutes of being strapped down to the state’s death gurney, tortured with lethal poison, and murdered by the volunteer executioners who are prison guards working for the state.

While I received a stay of execution from that madness, I went on to suffer from post-traumatic stress  for years, just because I survived that sick ritual of death that 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 committing.

I, however, am innocent, and now my fate lies in the hands of Governor Brown. In this fight for my life from death row at San Quentin prison, I have asked any and every person who has read anything about my plight to look at my case with an open mind.

On February 17, 2016 Norman C. Bile, my pro bono attorney from the prestigious law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, filed in the office of California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. my petition for clemency.

I have respectfully asked Governor  Brown and any other person to look at my case with an open mind, and outside the legal box that has me close to being murdered for murders that I did not commit. Doing this is truly important, especially now that many Americans are learning 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, or their political ideology, than with truth or justice. This is especially true in my case.

Start with the fact that for the first time within the history of the death penalty in California as well as within the history of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, eleven (11) federal circuit judges dissented in one death penalty case, and that case is mine!

Six of the 11 stated these words and others to show their concern as to why Kevin Cooper’s case should be heard on its merits before he is executed: “Public confidence in the proper administration of the Death Penalty depends on the integrity of the process followed by the State… 24 Years of flawed proceedings are as good as no proceedings at all.”

The other five judges stated these words and others to show their concern about the truth not being told in the case of Kevin Cooper:  “The State of California may be about to execute a innocent man.” A twelfth judge wrote a separate opinion stating: “Significant evidence bearing on Cooper’s culpability has been lost, destroyed or left un-pursued, 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 outcome.”

While it’s safe to say that there have been many a judge, and many a time when certain judges 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, there haven’t been as many times when judges speak out against a possible execution.

If these twelve judges are not listened to, then what will happen to me will not be my execution, but my murder by, and at the hands of the state of California!

“Finality” or Justice?

Many judges whose political ideology allows them to ignore the truth and injustice, to allow for a sick sense of justice to apply in death penalty cases, do very much exist on damn near every court within this country. Politics, the politics of life and death, do play a very real part within this country’s criminal justice system.

This is why the Republicans in Washington would not allow for President Obama to replace Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. This truth may never be admitted in words, but actions speak louder than words. The “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” may be what certain judges are more concerned about rather than “Justice,” it’s my hope that somewhere in here someone else will also see the miscarriage of justice in my case and stand up and speak out and prevent this state from murdering me.

What makes my case unique in many ways is the fact that the federal judges are doing just that, “standing up and speaking 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!

Just because certain judges choose not to speak out, or acknowledge the truth about my case as others have, doesn’t mean I’m guilty. This truth can be said for all the people who have been exonerated for crimes that they did not commit, including murder! Certain judges in their cases upheld those bogus convictions and then closed the case.

I am respectfully asking you, no matter who you are, no matter what your religion is, or your political party, no matter what your skin color is, or your sexual orientation, no matter what your job is, or what class you’re from or anything else that makes you the individual that you are, to please get involved in this fight to save my life as well as to fight for our collective humanity.

While I may indeed be murdered by the state of California in the not too distant future, this fight isn’t just about me. It’s much, much bigger than me, or any one person. It’s about us as a people bringing an end to this historic and horrific crime against humanity that is only done against America’s poor people. especially its Black ones like me.

The Fight Today

My legal team and I have petitioned the Governor seeking clemency. But we want him to grant me a investigation so that he can learn the truth about all the police corruption in my case, as well as a clemency hearing which will also include DNA testing on certain pieces of evidence which we hope will have the real killer’s DNA on it.

We hopefully will then seek a pardon if everything works out the way we want, though I have learned from experience that things very seldom work out the way anyone wants them to.

The first thing that we are asking the Governor  is to grant me a reprieve, so that if this state restarts executions, I will not be executed. The state has me marked for death and at the top of their execution list, in part because they didn’t torture and murder me in 2004, and then because of all the attention that my case is now receiving.

Many people have signed on to a petition that can be found on my website and also be found at the Amnesty International website (

There is entirely too much sadness and pain and inhumanity inside these modern day prison/plantations to go into in any one essay. Just know that my human spirit has endured and is keeping me alive when all around me is death. I live under the threat of death each and every day, and will continue to do so until I get dead, or get out of here!

Note: Kevin Cooper is a California death row prisoner, convicted of a 1983 quadruple murder in a grotesquely unfair trial. His case was scrutinized in a June 19, 2017 New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof ( We urge our readers to support the campaign for his exoneration and freedom. You can visit the website, Facebook /freekevincooper and write to him: Mr. Kevin Cooper, C-65304-4-EB-62, San Quentin Prison, San Quentin, CA 94974.

September-October 2017, ATC 190

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