Another Christmas on Death Row

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This is part two of a two-part interview. To listen to part one, click here.

In part two of this two-part interview, Death Row inmate Kevin Cooper, once coming within four hours of execution, details how he copes with the daily torment of impending death as his legal team fights to prove his innocence with new exonerating evidence Gov. Jerry Brown has refused to allow to be examined.

For the past 33 Christmas holidays, Kevin Cooper has inhabited an 11-by-4 ½-foot cell in California's San Quentin State Prison, the last eight waiting for Brown to grant him a new hearing and advanced DNA testing that would support what federal Appellate Judge William C. Fletcher has said: “Kevin Cooper is on Death Row because the San Bernardino sheriff’s department framed him.”

Cooper, at the top of the list to be killed when the state resumes executions, talks to Robert Scheer in the latest installment of "Scheer Intelligence" about the unfairness of the justice system and the difficulty of proving one’s innocence once convicted: “”Whenever you have a judge that comes forward and stands up and says no, this person innocent…this person was framed, we need to take that serious as a society.”

He discusses his ongoing struggle to preserve his basic humanity: "I’ve been blessed, in a sick sense of the word. I’ve been cursed by putting me here, but while I’m in here, I’ve been blessed, because there are a lot of death row inmates who commit suicide every time you turn around. They took a guy past this cage last night on a gurney, ‘cause he was ‘man down’...Don’t know if he lived or died. But they’ve been committing suicide up here, they’ve been killing each other up here. All types of craziness has been going on up in here." 

Cooper explains how he has kept hope alive when he could so easily succumb to desperation and despair.  He paints, writes and reads voraciously but is most passionate when speaking out against the death penalty: "When you find yourself in a fight that is bigger than you—[capital punishment] affects the lives of many people—and you can do something to help in that fight, you can’t give up...You can’t stop, you can’t quit. You just can’t do it...I did not choose this, to speak out against the death penalty; I didn’t. This [struggle] chose me."



Joshua Scheer