Political Prisoners


By Kevin Cooper

Kevin Cooper is on death row at San Quentin State Prison. He was scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. on February 10, 2004. The execution was halted just hours before, after a battle inside and outside the courtroom to prove his innocence. Kevin himself has been at the forefront of the struggle not only for truth and justice in his case, but against the death penalty system as a whole. On Tuesday, December 4, 2007, based on new but inconclusive DNA testing, a federal appeals court upheld Kevin’s death sentence. But, according to an article that appeared December 4, 2007 on the KTVU Channel 2 News website:

“Cooper’s [jb] lawyer, Norman Hile, said the testing was done improperly.

“‘At oral argument, the judges asked us whether or not the testing that was done was conclusive and we said no,’ Hile said. ‘It needed to be redone.’

“In a separate, but concurring opinion, Judge M. Margaret McKeown argued that important evidence in Cooper’s case was ‘lost, destroyed or left unpursued.’ That included blood-covered overalls that a detective threw away and a missing bloody T-shirt.

“‘The forensic evidence in this case is critical and yet was compromised,’ she wrote. ‘These facts are all the more troubling because Cooper’s life is at stake.’

“Despite the ‘serious questions as to the integrity of the investigation and the evidence supporting the conviction,’ the court was bound to examine only facts that could not have been discovered previously and could be used to establish ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that no reasonable person would have found Cooper guilty. McKeown noted that standard was not met in Cooper’s case.

“She also noted the criminologist in charge of the evidence turned out to be a heroin addict who was later fired for stealing drugs seized by the police.

“‘The result is wholly discomforting,’ she wrote. ‘but one that the law demands.’”

This following article was written for Socialist Viewpoint magazine.

—The Editors

There appears to be an ongoing war of words in the African American community about snitching, or telling on someone about something to the police.

There is part of the community that has always listened to the police, and done what they said, and/or wanted, no matter what it was, or what the cost of doing so. This stems from the reign of terror by police in the Black community, stemming from the slave-owner’s reign of terror during slavery times, and the overturn of the gains of the freed slaves of reconstruction times.

There is another part of the community that has always been against the police because the police, as the protectors and defenders of capitalist property, and all that flows from capitalist property relations, have always been against them—as history has recorded—and the criminal justice system, including its prisons, have proven. The government armed section of society—the police and the military forces—are the very essence of state power, the forces on which the capitalist class relies to keep its system—a system where a minority of society rules over the vast majority of the people—in power.

Then there are the district attorneys who want the citizens of the community to help solve crimes that remain unsolved by telling what they know, or what they saw, or who they saw in all the graphic details.

They even offer protection to the people who come forth and tell, or snitch.

The police and the district attorneys often use snitches, even lying snitches, in the course of their business to make arrests and get convictions. Snitches are often prisoners themselves, who snitch as a means of getting their own sentences lightened. And, in the United States, which has the highest percentage of its population in prison, most for non-violent “crimes,” snitching is a valuable coin of the realm.

In fact, the district attorney in my case, John Pi Kochis used a lying jailhouse informant/snitch in his case against me. This uneducated Black man, named James Taylor, later recanted his trial testimony and told the truth, which made the state angry and they made him recant his recantation.

The police and D.A., from my research, very seldom, if ever, tell or snitch on themselves, or each other. In fact, the police have what is called a blue wall of silence, and one would have to believe the district attorneys have the blue suits of silence. Their silence is one of the pillars of the state’s power over the people.

In rare times a policeman does snitch on another cop, like in the 1970s when in New York, a cop named Serpico told the truth about his fellow cops. They, like him, are threatened and ostracized by some of the very people they have spent years with on the force. The police wall of silence is one of the weapons they use to prevent the rare honest cop, like Serpico, who turned in criminal cops, and was nearly killed for his good deed.

Yet in the ghettos and barrios in this country the district attorneys and police don’t seem to mind when people who do what they don’t do—snitch—are threatened, ostracized, and made outcasts by their friends, family, and community, and, in some cases, are killed.

This double standard is just another form of hypocrisy in this country. If everyday people are expected to be snitches, then why don’t the police, and district attorneys become snitches as well?

What about the illegal things the politicians do? Shouldn’t they snitch on each other too?

Even here, in this prison that I am in and have been in since 1985, no one likes, or deals with a snitch. Not the prisoners or the guards. Correctional officers don’t snitch on each other. Nor do most other people in power. Did Scooter Libby snitch on Bush, Cheney, or anyone else? Hell no! Why? Because being a snitch is the worse thing that anyone can be. And that goes all the way back in history!

I did not make the rules. Nor did anyone in the Black community who is being asked to become what history detests, a snitch.

Again, I say that those in power are asking certain people to do what none of them do, which is to be a snitch. So, I guess it’s safe to ask: To snitch or not to snitch, that is the question.