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“My Innocence Keeps Me Strong”–Kevin Cooper Speaks From Death Row

StoryFebruary 04, 2004
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Kevin Cooper, who was convicted of a quadruple homicide in 1983 but has long maintained his innocence, is scheduled to die next Tuesday amid much controversy and protest. We hear an exclusive interview that Kevin Cooper did from death row recently with Leslie Kean of the KPFA program Flashpoints.

Outside the gates of the San Quentin prison in California four activists were arrested Tuesday as they protested the scheduled execution of Kevin Cooper. They were calling for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reconsider his decision last week to deny clemency to Cooper.

Cooper was convicted of a quadruple homicide in 1983 but he has long maintained his innocence.

He is scheduled to die by lethal injection just after midnight next Tuesday.

Full-page advertisements also appeared in California newspapers asking, “Does the state of California have the wrong man?” It was signed by dozens of members of the California Legislature, including Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco.

Also signing the letter was Lanny Davis. He is the former special counsel to President Bill Clinton and a member of Cooper’s defense team. He joins us on the program today.

  • Kevin Cooper, speaking from death row with Leslie Kean in exclusive interview on KPFA’s Flashpoints.


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AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to an exclusive interview done with Kevin Cooper on death row by Leslie Kane of the KPFA program, “Flashpoint.”

LESLIE KEAN:Kevin, I’m wondering if you could let us know what life is like for you now, I mean I know it’s a question that’s almost too hard to ask, but you have been talking about some of the rituals that go on, what we call the rituals of death that are involved in the system there at San Quentin. And I wonder if you can tell us about the things they have been putting you through that there?

KEVIN COOPER:They tried to get me to choose the method of how I wanted them to murder me. And I refused.

LESLIE KEAN: Can you describe what that process was?

KEVIN COOPER:Well, they took me down to a cell and the warden was there with some assistant wardens. They asked me — they explained to me about my situation, having the execution date and everything. they asked me to choose between lethal injection and lethal gas. I told them I wasn’t going to choose. Then they told me I had ten days to think about it and get back to them. I haven’t gotten back to them, because I’m not going to participate. Then they came to me again and asked me what I wanted for my last meal. They told me I could have anything I want. I don’t want no last meal is what I told them. They asked me, was I sure? I said, yes, I’m sure. I’m not participating in this sick ritual. Then they asked me about how was I being treated by the people who come by my cell to check on me. I told them that this whole thing is sick. Any time — you have to send a psychiatrist around to a person’s cell to see if what you are doing them is affecting them mentally or emotionally or psychologically, then something is wrong in the system. In all of the years that I have been in this prison, close to twenty, I have never tried to hurt myself, harm myself or disrespect myself in that way. So, for these people all of the sudden to start caring about whether or not I’m all right. That’s all they ask me, are you all right? Do you want to talk to us? I find this ludicrous, I find this insane. I refuse to participate in these rituals.

Today, I had had an attorney visit. When I came back from the attorney visit, I was taken into an office, and I was taken to some doctor, some medical administrator. And they said they wanted to check my arms to check for my veins where they can put their needles in. I told them I wasn’t going to help them lift my sleeves or nothing. They could do what they were going to do. So that’s what they did. They pushed my sleeves up and they checked my arms. They saw my veins, but then they said, wait a minute, we have to make sure. So they put me in a holding cage and went and got tourniquet, took my back into the office, wrapped the tourniquets around my arms and massages my arms and hands trying to see if they could see my veins. I looked at. him and asked him, isn’t this against the hippocratic oath that take as a doctor against killing people? He said, I’m not killing you, I’m checking for your veins. So he tried to disassociate himself from the process by saying he’s not going to be the one that’s putting the needles in my arm. But he’s just making sure that I’ve got veins so a needle can be placed in my arm. These people are sick. This is a sick, sick man-made ritual. I’m doing as best as I can, I’m not participating at all. Then he looked at me after asking that and said you’re not going to resist me, you are?

I said, no, I’m not going to resist, man, just do what you have to do. Don’t ask me to help you do it. Because that’s what they want, they want you to participate. They want you to be a willing volunteer. You know, it’s like it makes it easier on them. Oh yeah, he’s willing for us to kill him. I’m not into that. If I wanted to kill myself, I would have done it, but I haven’t, because I know.

LESLIE KEAN: They’re they’re probably not used to people like you who refuse to participate, are they?

KEVIN COOPER: I don’t know. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I can’t answer that.

LESLIE KEAN:Kevin, what do you think about the fact that medical doctors will be participating in the killing of a human being at San Quentin prison?

KEVIN COOPER: It’s more hypocrisy. you know? I mean, this whole country is based on hypocrisy. From the church to the White House to the prisons. Everything is hypocrisy. They take an oath in order to become a doctor saying they won’t do nothing to destroy life but only to save life. Then they turn around and they help these people murder me because without doctors, the medical staff, these executions cannot take place. So, this is more than just about a doctor, this is about a system, the medical system itself, which allows doctors to participate. It’s all hypocrisy.

LESLIE KEAN: And we are speaking now from KBFA radio on Pacifica Network with Kevin Cooper, he’s speaking to us from his cell on death row at San Quentin prison. And Kevin Cooper is scheduled to be executed a week from today. There are attorneys working 24 hours a day now, a big team of them, to see if they can change that situation. And we don’t know what’s going to happen. Kevin, you can let us know how you are managing to stay as strong as you are, what with all of this going on? What are you doing to keep yourself together?

KEVIN COOPER: Well, my innocence, first and foremost, keeps me strong. Then I have a strong support staff. I have a lot of strong people who come to see me every day, spend quality time with me, they let me know they’re fighting. I have strong attorneys, real strong attorneys, a real powerful law firm which is helping. So, my belief and my faith is God is first and foremost as well. So I mean, a combination of these things help me get through. I take this one step at a time. I don’t have tomorrow, I don’t got next week, but I got today. So I live one day at a time. I know that I’m innocent. They know that I’m innocent. That’s why they’re doing what they’re doing. That’s why the government denied me clemency. I mean, imagine, all of these people all around the world, powerful people, people who knew nothing about my case before, but who read the truth stepped up and said, wait a minute. Something’s wrong. We can’t do this. We can’t allow you to do this. We can’t stand by and say nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: Kevin Cooper, speaking to Leslie Kean of KPFA “Flashpoints” from his prison cell. He’s on death row at San Quentin. We’ll do more on this piece tomorrow to continue the coverage. He is scheduled to die within a week. And that does it for today’s program.

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