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Kevin Cooper: "Ritual of Death"

February 20, 2004 | Page 6

HERE, WE print Kevin Cooper's first statement after surviving a February 10 execution date.

ON MONDAY, February 9, 2004, shortly after 6:15 p.m., Rev. Jesse Jackson said a prayer for me and my visitors inside the visiting room here at San Quentin Prison. Then he and my personal pastor and friends were told to leave, which they did. I was then escorted to the rear of the visiting area and taken to a hallway which contained holding cells. I was then placed in the holding cell, where I had the handcuffs removed, and was then told to get undressed, which I did. I was strip-searched and given a brand-new set of prison-issued clothing and told to put them on.

I was handcuffed after I got dressed and was removed from that cell, where I was handed over to another squad of officers. I was surrounded by about six officers and escorted to the death chamber waiting room. When I was in the visiting room, the prison officials told me that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had granted me a stay of execution, but until they heard from the United States Supreme Court about whether or not my stay would stay in place, this prison was going to proceed as if I had no stay in place.

When I arrived outside the death chamber waiting room door, it was opened, and I was told to go inside, which I did. I was then told to place my back on the wall while being surrounded by a new squad of officers. These were the officers of the execution squad. There were about eight of them. The leader of the squad got real close to me and asked me if there was going to be any trouble when they took the handcuffs off of me? I looked him in his eyes and told him "no," and he removed the handcuffs.

I was again told to take off all my clothes, which I did, and I was again strip-searched. This time, they used a flashlight to light up both my mouth and butt as they searched me! This room that I was now in was very, very cold; the temperature had to be in the lower 50s. I stood barefoot on that cold floor surrounded by those officers while my body was completely searched. Then I was given another new set of clothing, only these were the ones that I was to be executed in.

I was then placed in another cell, only this new one was half the size as a regular cell. It had only a toilet, a mattress and pillow in it. I stood there in the cold, waiting for my pastor to come pray with me, and for me. All the time not knowing what the United States Supreme Court was going to do.

About a half hour later, my pastor arrived, and she was placed in a cell next to mine. It was to my right-hand side, but on an angle, and it was hard to see her through the cell bars, but I managed. I was asked once again, did I want a last meal. I said no. I was asked, did I want water. I said no. The warden came in and asked me, did I have a final statement. I said no. My arms were once again checked so they could make sure that they could find my veins, and officers were passing by with armfuls of alcohol pads/swabs and other assorted items for my murder, and their execution!

My pastor did a great job in keeping me focused, and somewhere in the middle of one of her scriptures, the phone rang. It was my attorney calling to let me know she was with me in spirit, and as soon as she heard something from the U.S. Supreme Court, she would call and let me know.

I entered the death chamber waiting room around 6:35 p.m., and around 8:15 p.m., the phone rang again, and it was once again my attorney. She told me that she heard from the court and that they refused to hear the state's petition. They denied the state and upheld my stay!!!

Even before I told my pastor the news, I told those officers that I meant them no disrespect in what I was about to say to them, but they weren't going to do their job tonight! I then told my pastor, and her and I prayed! I came within three hours and 45 minutes of being murdered by the state of California.

I am now recovering from the manmade ritual of death that I had to experience. I will never be the same again! I am only getting stronger and more determined to do my part in shutting down the U.S. government's pride and joy: "Their capital punishment system!"

In Struggle From Death Row,
Kevin Cooper

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