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Is California About to Execute an Innocent Man?

Kevin Cooper has spent the past 33 years on death row in San Quentin State Prison. (Narda Zacchino / Truthdig)

Editor’s note: Kevin Cooper was convicted of a 1983 quadruple murder and sentenced to death in a trial in which evidence that might have exonerated him was withheld from the defense. His case was scrutinized in a June 17, 2017, New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof. Visit savekevincooper.org for more information.

Three hours and 42 minutes. That’s how close Kevin Cooper came in 2004 to being murdered by the state, strapped down to a gurney and poisoned via lethal injection. He had been placed in what he calls a “death chamber waiting room” and stripped of all his clothes before he was granted a stay of execution. Five years later, in an unprecedented dissent, five federal judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that began: “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.”

A rash of evidence would appear to substantiate their claim. In the opinion, Judge William A. Fletcher details multiple Brady disclosures—key information that had been ignored or actively suppressed that would compromise the case against Cooper. Yet thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown’s inaction, he is no closer to getting state-of-the-art DNA testing, despite the calls of California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. Due to the passage of Prop. 66, which dramatically shortens the death penalty appeals process, Cooper’s execution could be expedited without his ever receiving a fair hearing—this is in one of the bluest states in the country.

“I’ve had years of post-traumatic stress disorder from having survived that near-death experience at the hands of these volunteer executioners, who are paid by the taxpayers of California,” he tells Robert Scheer from death row at San Quentin State Prison. “And what I wanted to say earlier … was this is America. And the death penalty is a part of America; it’s a tradition in America. This crime against humanity is nothing new.”

In part one of a two-part episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” Cooper reveals how he has maintained his sanity after 33 years in a cell that’s four and a half feet wide and 11 feet long, waiting for a justice that never seems to arrive. “It’s not just that easy,” he admits. “I mean, in order to understand what I’m going through, you’d have to go through it yourself, on a personal experience basis. People have bathrooms in their homes that are larger than this cage that I’m in right now. … Everything I do, from doing a painting or writing a letter or anything else, I do from within this cage. So I had to turn this cage into something other than a cage. I had to turn it into a classroom, I had to turn it into a church—when I want to go to church, I turn this cage into a church.”

Cooper also explains, with remarkable eloquence, how his individual struggle is part of a continuum that stretches from the genocide of indigenous peoples through chattel slavery to the mass incarceration and capital punishment of the present day. “The same type of people who were enslaved back then are the same type of people who are enslaved now,” he contends. “The same type of people who were doing the enslaving back then are the same type of people who are doing the mass incarcerations today. I mean, there is no difference. Things have changed, technology has changed, but the evilness that brought us … our slavery back then is the same evilness that’s in the hearts and the minds of the people who are doing this death penalty thing today.”

Listen to part one of Cooper’s interview with Scheer or read a transcript of their conversation below:

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, Kevin Cooper, who has been on Death Row in California for–

[Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number…monitored and recorded.

RS: This– [Laughs] threw me a little bit, that announcement. But Kevin Cooper’s been on Death Row at San Quentin in California; he’s been there for 33 years for a very gruesome crime, everybody agrees, in which two adults and two children were killed back in 1983. And he was convicted two years later. Let me just say by preface, my wife, Narda Zacchino, who was the associate editor of the LA Times, an experienced journalist, has spent the last two years investigating this case, and is convinced that Kevin Cooper is innocent of the crime that he was convicted for, and that this is a really grievous miscarriage of justice. And having read all the documents that are around, I am in agreement with that judgment. But more important, a judge in the Ninth [Circuit] Court, Judge Fletcher, filed an opinion that was endorsed in the demand for a new trial by 11 judges on the California Ninth Circuit, the federal Ninth Circuit in California. I want to just quote what he said at the time: he opened his dissenting opinion saying, “The state of California may be about to execute an innocent man.” And four years later in a speech at Yale University, Judge William C. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said, “The murders were horrible, and Kevin Cooper is on Death Row because the San Bernardino sheriff’s department framed him.” And the first reports out after that murder were that three white men were what they were looking for, and they ended up with one black man who had been on a minimum-security prison farm, had walked off; and had dreadlocks, was unmistakably a black man. And yet he was the one that was singled out. And as Judge Fletcher points out, there’s a great deal of evidence pointing to the people who actually did it, and it wasn’t Kevin Cooper. Welcome, Kevin. And where are you now? Are you in, at–

Kevin Cooper: I’m currently, right now, in a cage that I’m forced to live in against my will. That, a cage like this, I’ve been in for over 33 years, here at San Quentin prison.

RS: I think at the time you told me it was 11 foot by four and a half feet, something like that?

KC: Yes. Yeah, four and a half feet wide, 11 feet long.

RS: Yeah, I just want to get that across, because we’re talking about–I mean, I can’t even imagine being in there a day or a night or something. And the idea that you’ve been 33 years in a case where, clearly–whatever, you know, you think about the death penalty, whatever you think about the justice system in the United States and in California–the amount of what are called Brady violations, non-disclosure of evidence that would support Kevin Cooper’s case, tampering with evidence. Judge Fletcher in his dissenting opinion goes through a great deal of that evidence; there are some terrific lawyers who’ve been working pro bono on this case. And I would say the evidence is overwhelming that you’ve been framed–let’s cut to the chase of it, as Judge Fletcher does. And he makes it very clear. And can you tell me, though, what happened now–you’ve been fighting this case, and then the voters of California did something in the name of efficiency that is actually terrifying in its implication. Instead of ending the death penalty, as just about every civilized country in the world has done, they hastened it. And now you are slated to be one of the first individuals executed under this new law passed by the voters of California, are you not?

KC: Yes. Yes, I am. Prop 66 did pass. Mainly because in 2004, when this state and its death-penalty-supporting people attempted to murder me by lethal injection, I got a stay of execution. And that was because of another dissent by another Ninth Circuit judge named James R. Browning. But I came within three hours and 42 minutes of being strapped down to that gurney and injected with lethal poison and tortured and murdered by these people. But they didn’t do it then, so I got away, so now they want to do it again. And this time, they plan on finishing the job.

RS: By the way, full disclosure, I’m also your editor at Truthdig. And you’ve written about some of this in a very compelling way. But take us back to that moment when the state of California was going to end your life.

KC: I was in a death chamber waiting room, they stripped me down buck-naked like a slave on an auction block, and they examined my body the same way they examined slaves on auction blocks, from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, and every part in between. And my life was on the clock. Every minute that ticked by, I knew I was going to be murdered by these people. You know, it was just an unreal, surreal type experience, but it is real. You know that these people are not playing with you. They are going to murder you. And it’s hard to put into words. I mean, for anybody to really understand it, it’s one of those real-life events that you’d have to experience personally to really understand. But this is wrong. Because I was psychologically tortured beforehand, and afterwards I’ve had years of post-traumatic stress disorder from having survived that near-death experience at the hands of these volunteer executioners, who are paid by the taxpayers of California. And what I wanted to say earlier, before I jumped on this, was this is America. And the death penalty is a part of America; it’s a tradition in America. This crime against humanity is nothing new. So when the people of the state of California voted to speed up this thing, they were doing what comes natural to them, to these death penalty states, and these people who believe and support this thing. So this is all part of the same system that started with the genocide of the indigenous peoples of this land, went on to the slaves that were imported into this land, and then it just went on into the prison system. But it’s the same thing, it’s the same system. And I’m about to face this stuff again, if–

[Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.

KC: –if I don’t get some type of relief from the court. Or from the governor, or from somebody.

RS: What I want to really get across is, people can read and see, that–if there’s someone who really requires an innocence hearing, requires a retrial, requires looking at the evidence, at the Brady violations, the tampering, the things–that’s clear. But I also want them to understand there’s a human being who’s in the midst of this. What are we talking about here? We’re talking about killing an innocent person who deserves, certainly, a hearing at least. And I’ve found our governor, Jerry Brown, to be kind of oblivious to this. Why? Because he said, “I’d have to believe a number of law enforcement agents framed a man”–well, that’s what Judge Fletcher said. He said, you are “on Death Row because the San Bernardino sheriff’s department framed him.”

KC: Let me say this, if you don’t mind. You said something earlier about I deserve to have this stuff looked at. But see, that’s the problem. Nobody wants to look at it. Jerry Brown, when he was the attorney general, made a statement that there are no innocent people on Death Row. And other people have supported him; republican district attorneys like that lame duck in San Bernardino County, Ramos, and other people have supported him. They have used his words against him. Not too long ago, a Death Row inmate got off of Death Row because the California Supreme Court said that he was convicted with false evidence, and he was on Death Row for 24 years. Now here comes my case, which Governor Brown had in his office for two and a half years, and refused to look at. So my point is this: they don’t want to look at it, they don’t want to see the truth. Because if they see the truth, then they’ll see that their system is doing here in California what they’ve been doing all over the country. Having innocent people on Death Row, and probably executing them. They don’t want to know. So if you don’t want to know something, you don’t look at it. You turn a blind eye to the truth. And this has been the plight of black people in this country. They have long turned a blind eye to the truth concerning us and our plight in this rotten-ass [09:14] criminal justice system. [Inaudible] That’s what they go by. They don’t give a damn about us. And Jerry Brown, in my opinion, is a moral coward.

RS: But OK, people are going to say Kevin Cooper is saying that in his defense. But I want to remind them, Judge Fletcher–and I am going to post this entire dissent by Judge Fletcher–he said, “the state failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing,” that “the state obstructed and impeded Cooper and his lawyers in almost every way imaginable in denying his plea for a new hearing.”

KC: And Judge Fletcher was just one of, we believe, 14 judges on the Ninth Circuit, even though it was 11 that actually dissented on paper. But of those 11, they all wrote dissents. And one of the judges who wrote a dissent, named Kim Wardlaw, stated that 24 years of flawed proceedings in my case was like not having no proceedings at all. In other words, I had no due process. None. I was rubber-stamped through the system. So I mean, every one of those 11 judges that dissented, each spoke their piece. And all I’m asking for is what they said they would give me when they put it on paper all those centuries ago. Due process. A trial free of governmental interference. That’s what they said on paper all those centuries ago that we could have, in the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence, or one of them pieces of paper that they wrote it on, in the Constitution. Where is mine? All these politicians talking about the Constitution, and they stand for the Constitution; well, damn it, stand for it! And stop pushing me and trying to murder me without giving me what I got a right to have, that’s written in the Constitution. But then again, like you said, I’m just fighting for my life; I’m just a poor black man speaking out, out of frustration.

RS: I beg, urge and beg people to read the documentation. We’re not just, you know, it’s not just Kevin Cooper saying this. He’s got great lawyers, and now on a pro bono basis he’s got a guy who was deputy head of the FBI in Los Angeles, has worked on this case for eight years. Tell me about your lawyer, though. He’s been–right?–with you for a long time.

KC: Norman [Hile] has been with me for a long time.

RS: Norm–

KC: Pro bono. And he is a good man. And he could have been retired from work a long time ago, but he said no, he wasn’t going to retire until he got me out. He’s committed to getting me out. And I am very thankful for that. And I have a lot of respect for him, a lot of appreciation for what this man is doing.

RS: I should point out, no one less than the Pope has spoken out for a new hearing for you and on your [behalf]. Twelve appellate judges, half the jurors who convicted you, and you know, international human rights organizations, law school deans, innocence projects and everyone. So you got a lot of support. But at the end of the day, most people, it’s out of sight, out of mind. And what we’re trying to do, what I’m trying to do with this interview, is put you in sight. I have a connection with you as an editor, and I know you’re a great writer, and how clear you are; you should talk about the books that have influenced you. You’re also a–

[Recorded voice on telephone] You have 60 seconds remaining.

RS: –a very strong, a very compelling painter. So you’ve found avenues for expressing yourself. We only, the announcement said we only have 60 seconds, and that was about 20 seconds ago; I don’t know if that means I’m going to lose you now, Kevin, but I’ll try to get back to you….

KC: Let me hang up and call back, I’ve got about six minutes.

RS: Hello?

KC: Yeah, I’m here.

RS: Well, let’s just pick up. I quoted all these people attesting to your innocence, others demanding that you have a hearing, and so forth. But it hasn’t happened. Kamala Harris, who’s now the senator from California, she was the attorney general, and now she said that, you know, she’s all for your having an innocence hearing and a DNA testing. The other senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, says the same thing. And yet it’s not happened. How does it register on you that these people, you know, are actually seeming to come out for some measure of justice here, and then yet you sit there, trapped in your cell in this extreme dehumanizing situation.

KC: First, I’d like to correct you about something, because this is not my cell. This is more your cell than it is mine, because you’re a taxpayer. And the people of the state of California own this cell, not me. I am forced to live here against my will. Concerning Senator Harris and Feinstein and everybody else who is now supposedly on my side, or endorsing what we want, or are seeking as far as DNA testing and an innocence hearing, I find it hypocritical that when she was the attorney general of the state, she wouldn’t give me no DNA testing or no hearing. She wouldn’t give me the time of day. But now all of a sudden, she wants this governor to do something that she wouldn’t do. Dianne Feinstein, I believe that she just flipped her script and became a progressive democrat because of Bernie Sanders and all those other progressive democrats that are now in Washington, D.C. Because before, she was for the death penalty. Now she comes out against it. And I like, I like to believe that in time, people evolve and can change their positions like that, but her position changed because of other people, not because she had some type of enlightenment about the death penalty. So, you know, I find these democrats hypocrites, myself. I mean, it may come back to haunt me to say these things, but I must speak truth. If they were in action what they claim to be in words, I would have already had an innocence hearing; I would have already had an innocence investigation; I would have already had the DNA testing that we seek.

RS: You know, how do you get through the day? That’s what I’m trying to figure out here. You know, I’ve been in there, in that, one of those cages with you for five hours talking about this case. And you’re remarkably clear about what’s going on, and what the evidence is, and the injustice it is. How do you get through it?

KC: I choose to fight on because my human spirit will not allow me to quit. I mean, it’s just something about me as an individual. And I don’t mean nothing special or nothin’. I mean, I have the same will within me to survive that slaves had on the plantation to survive, or Jewish people had during the Holocaust who survived, or Native Americans had during the Trail of Tears to survive. I mean, there’s just something in some of us who won’t let us stop. We must continue on, we must fight back. And so that’s what I do. I mean, I live in this four-and-a-half-foot wide by eleven-foot cage. I do a lot of reading and a lot of writing. I keep my mind occupied. I do my artwork, do my exercise and my body. And I just keep going, I keep pushing forward. I have no choice but [not] to stop, because if I do stop, that means they’re going to kill me. And I’m not going to let that happen if I can help it.

RS: Well, tell us about your routine, though. I mean, we’re going to be broadcasting this pretty close to Christmas. The pope has called for your having an innocence hearing, and he’s certainly against the death penalty. Just tell us what this reality–I can’t, most of us can’t even imagine 33 days in a place like San Quentin’s Death Row. Tell us what 33 years have been about.

[Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.

RS: OK, so monitor. I’m asking this prisoner on the birth of Christ, I’m asking about his life, so don’t cut off the phone call. People have a right to know. What does it mean to be unjustly held on Death Row for 33 years? Just take us through, day after day, what is it?

KC: It’s not just that easy. I mean, in order to understand what I’m going through, you’d have to go through it yourself, on a personal experience basis. People have bathrooms in their homes that are larger than this cage that I’m in right now. And everything I do, I do within this cage. I’m talking to you right now on a telephone that is brought to me, and they open the tray slot, you know, where they pass the food in on a tray, and I have to reach out and push the buttons on the phone to talk to you. But I’m in this cage right now–everything I do, from doing a painting or writing a letter or anything else, I do from within this cage. So I had to turn this cage into something other than a cage. I had to turn it into a classroom, I had to turn it into a church–when I want to go to church, I turn this cage into a church. I turn this cage into what I want it to be–

[Recorded voice on telephone] You have 60 seconds remaining.

KC: –or whatever I need it to be to survive. Now, this is abnormal. There is nothing about living in this place and doing what I’m doing that is normal. This is what makes it so hard for me to describe to you what it’s like to live in here. Because it is the complete opposite of your world and your life. It’s the complete opposite. I can’t go nowhere.

[Recorded voice on telephone] You have 30 seconds remaining.

KC: Let me hang up and call back…But this is how I have to live. You know, I’m lucky enough to have a TV, and I can watch a lot of different channels. And because I can watch a lot of different channels, I’m able to hear people speak in their own native tongues about their own experiences in the countries that they’re from, because I can get TV stations from around the world. Not because I have cable, because I don’t–you know, it’s digital TV, it’s free, over-the-air TV. So I watch a lot of different stations like that, and it helps educate me on the plight of poor people. And a lot of poor people, no matter where they are, they’re still fighting for the same things that I’m fighting for from within this prison. Their lives, their freedom, their form of justice. And we all, no matter what language we speak, what tongue we speak, what religion we are, or are not, we’re all speaking the same language. We’re telling the oppressor to get his foot out of our asses [20:13], to get his handcuffs off our wrists, to get his needles or his bullets out of our backs and our arms, to get his hands out of our pockets, to leave us alone. To let us be who we are.

RS: Well, I want to go–let me go into that. I mean, people listening to this, you know, people can be cynical, they can be whatever they want. But I want to remind them, we’re talking about somebody who came a few hours from his death on Death Row. We’re not talking about an abstraction; we’re talking about somebody who’s going to be the first or second person killed in California, now that they voters went for speeding up the killing. And I just want to remind people, this is a case in which one of the top judges in the state, judge William Fletcher–and he was supported by eleven appellate judges, and half the jurors who were in this case, and others–Fletcher said the evidence for keeping Kevin Cooper in jail all this time, and to kill him, was, quote, “manipulated and planted by the sheriff’s department.” The sheriff’s department down in, basically, white, rural, San Bernardino County. And, quote, “It was manipulated and planted in order to convict Cooper, while it”–and, again, quoting the words of Judge Fletcher. “It”–that’s the sheriff’s office–quote, “discounted, disregarded, and discarded evidence pointing to other killers.” Including throwing away bloody coveralls belonging to the main suspect, whose girlfriend turned them over to the sheriff and implicated her boyfriend in the murders. That last part I’m reading from the description of it. But that’s the evidence that, according to Judge Fletcher, was, quote, discounted and disregarded evidence pointing to other killers, et cetera, et cetera. We’re talking about a guy, Kevin Cooper–this guy is asking for a DNA test. Now we have more sensitive DNA testing, and his attorney, who has been doing this pro bono for a decade now, pushing this case. And you got the two senators from California, one of whom was the attorney general of the state of California–could have done this herself. But now she’s a senator, Kamala Harris, and Dianne Feinstein–they’re both saying, give this guy the test. Jerry Brown has got a matter of weeks left in his tenure; he’s had eight years, recently, as governor to deal with this. And what is he going to do, walk away from it? Not make a decision?

KC: To put this in a little bit different perspective, a clemency petition was first put into office when Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor. Twice. The first time, in 2004, he straight-out denied me. But shortly before he left office, he said that the clemency petition that we put in had so much new information, and evidently concerns, that he didn’t have enough time to deal with it with the little bit of time he had left in office. So he left it, my clemency petition, to Governor-Elect Brown to deal with. And Governor Brown, for eight years, he had done nothing. When we finally decided to put a clemency petition in to Brown with his name on it, because we asked him did he read what we left for Schwarzenegger and he said he could not find it, he did not know nothing about it.  So we sent one into him then he left it in his office, or in the trunk of his car, or in the attic or in the drawer or wherever, for two and a half years and never did nothin’! Nothin’! For two and a half years! And the only reason why he did anything now as far as asking us questions,  is because of that very powerful and truthful piece from the New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, which came out last spring. So then he was forced to respond, because if Mr. Kristof had not written that piece, we still would not be hearing anything from Governor Brown. He may not say nothing, and yet I’m still on Death Row, still fighting for my life in a system that is not made to fix itself. A system that is made to uphold convictions regardless. Those men and women who have been exonerated just don’t know how lucky they are. Because the majority of people in prison who have evidence of innocence do not get out. Because this system is broken, and it’s working the way it was designed to work. And it was not designed to exonerate people. It was designed to incarcerate people, and to torture and murder people, via executions.

[Recorded voice on telephone] You have 30 seconds remaining.

RS: Kevin–you’ll call me back, OK.

KC: I’m here.

RS: So the very idea that a presumably enlightened governor, Jerry Brown–let’s really press this matter–

[Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.

RS: Yeah, so monitor this and tell the governor, you know, we’re monitoring this, but he’s got only a matter of weeks left in this job. And you know, we’re doing this interview here in part to wake him up. You know, I don’t know what he’s doing, maybe he doesn’t–but I talked to him about this. I know my wife has had time interviewing him, as we respected the guy. I just don’t get it. I don’t get why he can’t do what Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris tell him he should do. You know, retest, use your refined DNA testing, and look at the evidence, and give this guy his innocence hearing. And I just want people listening to understand what we’re talking about here.

KC: You can’t make people do what they don’t want to do. And if he wanted to do it, he would have done it.  He was, a long, long time ago, studying to be a Jesuit priest. Ain’t no telling what happened to him between then and now. Anything could have changed him. He used to always say, there are no innocent people on Death Row in California. He actually believed that. And other people quoted him, mostly republicans who were supporting the death penalty, quoted him. Using his voice to put forward their agenda on speeding up the death penalty, and executing as many people as possible. So how would he now want to turn around and say, oh, I was wrong. There are innocent people on Death Row. He’s not going to do it! He’s not that type of man, at least in my opinion. His actions have not shown me he’s that type of man.

RS: You know, I’ve been talking to people about your case, and out there and everything. And we just, you’re right; the rest of us live in a world that we–we can accommodate that. Some young students, they say well, you know, prison–I ask them, I say, you ever even been in for an hour? Let alone a year, let alone 33 years? And so what do you see? Because you’re a great artist, and you’re a terrific writer. Tell me how you see this system that has been most of your life, you’ve been inside the bowels of this system.

KC: I see this system as a continuation of the systems that preceded it. This is why I call this place that I’m in a modern-day plantation. Because through reading the different books that I have read, I see the same type of situations. Everything about it is just like the plantations from yesteryear. The same type of people who were enslaved back then are the same type of people who are enslaved now. The same type of people who were doing the enslaving back then are the same type of people who are doing the mass incarcerations today. I mean, there is no difference. Things have changed, technology has changed, but the evilness that brought us our chattel slavery, back then, is the same evilness that’s in the hearts and the minds of the people who are doing this death penalty thing today. You could not have had chattel slavery way back then without the death penalty, without all the torture and everything that went along with it. In order to scare a people into being submissive to you. Being uneducated and miseducated, as well as living under the threat of death, is what kept people enslaved. Here, today, we’ve got a lot of uneducated and miseducated people. And in both cases, all are people who are poor. So my point is, when I look and see how people back then–some of them, not all of them–struggled and made it, and I look today and see how some of us are struggling and are making it, I understand that I cannot give up. Because if I give up, then other people will give up. I must fight. I must fight just as hard today as some of my ancestors did back then.

[Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.

KC: It’s something that I can’t put into words. It’s just something that’s what’s in me to do. But I didn’t know that I had it within me until I started reading books. And I started understanding the connection between yesteryear and this year, between old-school plantations and modern day plantations. Between old-school oppression and new oppression. Between the haves and the have-nots back then and the haves and the have-nots now. It’s the same. And again, you know, I say this because I don’t understand it: I don’t know why it’s me. I mean, I didn’t choose to do this stuff, to speak out against the death penalty, or to write or to paint. I didn’t even know how to do none of this stuff when I first got here. I mean, I knew I could do some artwork, drawings and stuff, but I never knew that I could become what I became in this cage, as a self-taught man. If I had had somebody teaching me out there, I’d have become that out there, but I didn’t. But it wasn’t until I got these books, all different types of books, that this stuff started coming out of me.

RS: You know, I just want to remind people listening to this that what your lawyers are asking for is modern DNA testing of evidence. That judges and others have already said the old tests were distorted; blood samples had preservatives in them, meaning they were not real, from, in real time; tampering of evidence And all that’s being asked for, legally, is a hearing to look at the new evidence, look at the Brady violations–

KC: Six Brady violations.

RS: Six cases. Can you do it right off the top of your head? The six? Where they just distorted or withheld evidence that would have exonerated you or helped in your exoneration?

KC: One is the bloody coveralls that were turned over by a woman who suspected her boyfriend was part of the murders. Two was a blue shirt that came up missing, that had blood on it, that was found and is connected to this murder case. Three is the police report, or the police log, about the coveralls. Four is the police log about the blue shirt, because without the log, we wouldn’t have known about the shirt, and without the coveralls we wouldn’t have known about the log where those coveralls were ordered destroyed. Because the cop who testified on the witness stand about those coveralls said he destroyed them on his own. But we found out later on, we found a police report, a police log where he in fact said those coveralls were ordered destroyed by his boss. Then when we were in court, we found a police log that talked to us about the blue shirt, but the blue shirt is missing. Five is the warden from that prison, Chino prison; he said that he called the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department and told them that those tennis shoes, which they kept saying were prison-issued tennis shoes, were not prison-issued tennis shoes. He told them that you could get those shoes damn near anywhere. And that was the truth. We got a catalog that shows where those tennis shoes could be bought in different parts of the country as well as ordered through a catalog. So that’s five Brady violations. And then the sixth Brady violation–

[Recorded voice on telephone] This call and your telephone number will be monitored and recorded.

KC: –there was a cop who knew that there were three white men with blood on them in that Canyon Corral Bar, and that they were suspects in this homicide, but he never told that information to the defense attorney, to my trial attorney. Because if he had told them about those three white men in that bar that night, then my attorney would have subsequently been able to speak to witnesses who have come forth who were there that night, and describe those men in the bar, in the coveralls, in the tennis shoes, with blood on them. Those people came forward in 2004, and they helped get me the stay of execution with the information that they knew, because that was a Brady violation. Those six things, if the jury had heard about them, I would have never got convicted.

[Recorded voice on telephone] You have 60 seconds remaining.

RS: So you got Brady violations, which means you’re keeping evidence away from the defense that would exonerate the accused. They deliberately did it, and now these are the people that want to put you to death as quickly as they can so the case gets closed, and hopefully you’ll be able to get back on the phone and we can continue this discussion in even greater detail.

Robert Scheer
Editor in Chief
Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and his…
Robert Scheer

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