California death row prisoner Kevin Cooper (pictured), whose innocence claims recently spurred the American Bar Association to call for a reprieve, recently authored an article describing what is was like for him to experience nearly being executed on February 10, 2004. Cooper described the days leading up to his scheduled execution, which included round-the-clock monitoring, medical exams, and meetings with his attorneys. “My lawyers kept coming to see me and updating me on what the were doing to save my life, but I honestly did not believe they could stop the state from putting me to death,” he said. The key prosecution witness against Cooper was the surviving son of the murdered couple, who was gravely injured during the attack. On the day of the murders, the 8-year-old boy said that three white or Hispanic men had committed the killings. After seeing photos of Cooper on television, he also told his grandmother and a sheriff’s deputy that Cooper—who is black—was not the killer. Cooper recounts prison personnel forcibly applying a torniquet to his arms to determine the best veins for use in his execution, and taunts from guards that photos they were taking would be “the last images the world would see of me.” One asked whether he wanted “a Tombstone pizza” as his last meal. On what was supposed to be his final day of life, Cooper met with visitors before being taken away to be strip-searched twice and placed in a cage to await execution. During the second search, which was conducted inside the death chamber, he was subjected to a full body-cavity examination, including a guard shining a flashlight inside Cooper’s mouth and up his rectum. A clock was on the wall of the execution holding cell, and Cooper said, “I looked at that large wall clock, knowing that with each passing minute, my life was ticking away.” The execution preparations continued even after a lower court granted Cooper a stay, because the state was appealing the stay to the U.S. Supreme Court. Less than four hours before the execution was scheduled to take place, the Court unanimously upheld the stay. After receiving a call from his lawyer about the Supreme Court vote, Cooper wrote, “I gave the phone back to the guard and told the executioners that they were not going to do their jobs that night.”

(K. Cooper, “What It’s Like to Almost Get Executed,” The Marshall Project, March 31, 2016.) See Innocence.