Innocence matters to us

Painting by Alex Schaefer
By: Kevin Cooper

Many people throughout this country and world have been asking a very real and important question concerning the death penalty in this country. They want to know why it is so easy for the United States to execute a human being who may be innocent? Or why doesn't the court system in America acknowledge innocence as a legal claim within its courts of law?

These questions came to the forefront when the state of Georgia murdered Mr. Troy Anthony Davis on September 21, 2011. To understand why the judicial system within this country refuses to recognize innocence as a legal defense, you need to learn the history of this country. If you understand the history of this country, then you will understand the present.

Everything in the present, especially the legal system and the Constitution, is written in this country's tortured history. 

The Constitution is what judges claim they follow concerning the law. Innocence as a legal defense was not written into this country's Constitution by the "founding fathers." Nor could they write about innocence in any form because they themselves were not innocent. Most were slave owners. Therefore, they had blood on their hands by committing and taking part in one of the worst crimes against humanity. How can a guilty party write about innocence? 

The U.S. Constitution, on paper, is one of the greatest things ever written. But it was a lie then, with "all men are created equal," but not Africans, Indians or even white women. They were all considered property. 

Today's judges can say that because there is nothing written in the constitution about the execution of an innocent person, innocence is no defense. This is the mindset--the mentality of the justices who are currently on the U.S. Supreme Court. 

But we aren't dummies, and we know that's bullshit! We know that those judges have to answer to no one but themselves, and can do whatever they want to or don't want to do. In truth, innocence within this country has never mattered, and it's all written within the real history of this country. 

Many, many people don't know this history. That includes one presidential candidate--I think it was Michelle Bachman who said that the founding fathers did everything they could to end slavery. But that's not true, all but one of those "founding fathers" owned slaves! 

In addition, many of those "founding fathers" fought, or knew someone who fought, against the innocent indigenous people of this country and executed them, stole their land and resources and put them on a reservation. That was done to them before, during and after the importation of the Africans who were turned into slaves. 

Read the tortured and twisted history of this country for yourself! Innocence was left out of the Constitution then, and no amendment has been passed to include innocence. 

Women's equal rights were left out of the constitution, and no amendment has been passed to grant women equal rights with men. To this very day, women in this country are not paid equally to the men they work with. I say that not only because it is the truth, but because innocence and equality often go hand in hand when it comes down to the death penalty within this country.? 

If nothing else, I hope that someone who takes the time to read this essay will find the time to read about the real history of the United States of America. Especially if the reader says that I am wrong about what I have written here. I have left politics out of this essay, because if I brought politics into this, then I would be opening another version of history. Why? Because damn near everything in this capitalistic country is political, especially the death penalty! 

This may be about one of the most important things that we should know about the death penalty in this country, and the federal courts that allow the states to carry it out: Most of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court and all of the Republican judges on that court are "federalists." What does that mean? It means that they believe in and support "states' rights"--that the state has the "right" and the power to go ahead and do to its citizens whatever they see fit, even execute them. 

In their minds, and in their version of the U.S. Constitution, the federal courts must stay out of the business of the states, unless the federal rights of their citizens have been violated. Which is another story in and of itself! 

The bottom line is that it is important to study history and understand why innocence doesn't matter to these judges and courts. And it is important that we continue our struggle, to show why innocence does matter to us.

Kevin Cooper is on death row at San Quentin prison in California. Visit Kevin's website at