On death row and still fighting

By: Rebecca Downer

The abolitionist movement won an incredible victory this past February when California death row prisoner Kevin Cooper, won a stay of execution just hours before his scheduled execution. "No person should be executed if there is doubt about his or her guilt and an easily available test will determine guilt or innocence," wrote the majority on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals when they issued the stay.

But since then, the state of California has made repeated efforts to overturn Cooper’s stay. The most recent appeal by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer claimed that the 9th Circuit Court did not have the authority to issue Cooper’s stay. Moreover, the state argued that Cooper’s stay should be overturned due to an "interest in finality." Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the state’s appeal in May, clearing the way for potential DNA testing of evidence that could prove Kevin’s innocence.

A San Diego court will now decide what evidence will be tested including hair found in the victim’s hands and blood found on a t-shirt. The strands of hair found in the victim’s hand are blond and could not belong to Kevin since he is African American. Moreover, if the blood on the t-shirt may is tested for preservatives, the results could prove that the evidence was tampered with. This would disprove the state’s claim that previous DNA tests link Kevin to the crime.

Meanwhile, Kevin has re-doubled his efforts to win his freedom and to save the lives of others on death row. Since Kevin’s stay, he has spoken to audiences "Live from Death Row" on two occasions at the University of California at Berkeley and at San Francisco State University. Kevin has also written several new and powerful essays exposing the truth about injustice.

In an essay entitled, "You Can Continue to Ignore the Truth if You Want," Kevin addresses the prison scandal in Iraq. "Anyone who has seen the photographs of the U.S. military abusing the Iraqi prisoners can’t help but to be horrified," writes Kevin. "But what is more horrifying is the fact that without those photographs this abuse would still be ongoing and no one would even know that it is happening.

"The same type of mindset and attitude that led the U.S. military to abuse those prisoners is the exact type of mindset that was used against the indigenous people of this land when the U.S. government’s military section went about stealing their land and murdering those people! This is the same type of mindset that was used by the people who stole Africans from Africa and made them into slaves in this country.

"These people who took those photographs were so bold, so arrogant, so confident in what they were doing that they felt invincible. They honestly believed that what they were doing was the right thing, and the end justified the means. But this can only happen when one group of people dehumanizes another group of people, degrades another group of people and makes itself superior to those people, if only in their own minds.

"These war crimes are not isolated incidents, as certain people from the U.S. government want us to believe they are. They can’t be because the truth of the matter is that this country has a whole history that was built upon the very real fact that in order to have their way they have committed every type of atrocity against poor people of all different races, cultures, religions and sexual orientations. This is the whole truth and this is the American way!"

From his prison cell, Kevin continues to fight against the injustices of our justice system.