Incarceration Nation

Statement to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)

By Kevin Cooper

This statement was made via audiotape. It was recorded by Kevin Cooper’s attorneys Norman Hile and Katie DeWitt at San Quentin State Prison, California.

Members of the Commission:

I, Kevin Cooper, am speaking to you from death row at San Quentin Prison.

For the past 30 years, I have been a victim of repeated violations of my human rights. This nightmare began in June 1983 when I learned that I was being sought for multiple murders that I did not commit.

As the surviving victim told numerous people in the days and weeks following the crimes, the attackers were three white men. But once the Sheriff and the District Attorney’s office learned that I, a Black man and an escaped convict, had been hiding at a ranch near the crime scene, they immediately stopped trying to locate the three white men. Instead, they pursued one racist goal: convicting a Black man—that Black man being me. A monkey hanged in effigy outside my courthouse said it all: it bore the sign “hang the nigger.”

My attorneys have explained to me that it is not your job to determine my innocence or to second-guess how the U.S. courts have acted in my case. I understand that you are to decide whether my international human rights have been violated. Please read my papers and look closely at the evidence presented.  If you do, I’m sure you will see that . . .

I, Kevin Cooper, have been prosecuted because of my race,

That I, Kevin Cooper, have been denied a fair trial,

That I, Kevin Cooper, have been denied due process and the right to an effective defense,

That I, Kevin Cooper, have been denied my freedom,

Worst of all, in February 2004, I, Kevin Cooper, came within three hours and 42 minutes of being denied my right to life until an emergency stay granted me a temporary reprieve. 

The State of California almost killed me then. The State of California still wants to kill me now. But you can save my life. You have the power to tell the United States that my conviction and death sentence violated international law. You can tell the Governor of California that I should not be executed. You can tell Governor Jerry Brown that I need a new, a fair trial, a trial free of human rights violations and a trial free from governmental interference.

I respectfully ask you to help me get that trial so that I may finally prove my innocence, freeing myself from 30 years of bondage at the hands of the State.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

This is Kevin Cooper