As Indiana governor Mike Pence attended the Republican National Convention and accepted Donald Trump’s request to run alongside him as Vice President, an innocent man, released from prison, is awaiting a historic pardon that was recommended nearly two years ago to remove incorrect information from his criminal record.
Keith Cooper, 49, was convicted of a horrific armed robbery 20 years ago, according to the South Bend Tribune. Cooper moved from the rough neighborhoods of Chicago to the safer neighborhoods of Elkhart, Indiana, in hopes of finding a better life for his family. However, on January 2, 1997, Cooper was arrested for snatching a woman’s purse, simply because he met the description of the assailant — being a tall and thin black man, according to the Indy Star.
Cooper knew he was innocent, but cooperated with the police in an attempt to ensure he was not charged with an unnecessary crime. However, a detective on the case was also working on an open case for an armed robbery that occurred in the same apartment complex Cooper lived in. A victim almost died from gunshot wounds in the case and one of the assailants was still on the loose. The detective, wanting to close both cases, chose Cooper as the second subject. The victim of the shooting positively identified Cooper simply because he is a tall and thin black man.
— Diane Phillips (@phil_diane) July 18, 2016
Through the entire trial process, Cooper denied his participation in any sort of illegal activity, sticking to a plea of innocence. However, Cooper’s lawyer could tell that the trial was not going in his favor and suggested a pleading guilty to a lesser sentence would allow for him to be released from prison earlier than the sentence he would receive if he continued to plead innocent. Cooper reluctantly agreed and was sentenced to 40 years behind bars.
During his time in prison, Cooper learned that his wife and kids were living in a homeless shelter — a stark contrast to the better life he had hoped to give them in Indiana.
As he sat in jail, DNA evidence became more reliable and was used to verify Cooper’s participation in his alleged crimes. It was determined that Cooper did not have any evidence tying him to the case. Nearly a year after the DNA test was administered, in 2005, Cooper was released from prison as a free man. However, the criminal record was to remain.
As a result, Cooper’s attorney Michael A. Christofeno wrote Mike Pence a letter petitioning a pardon for the crimes, based upon his proven innocence, according to the Chicago Tribune.
That was two years ago. Mike Pence is yet to respond.
“Justice demands that Mr. Cooper be pardoned… We cannot undo the wrongful imprisonment of Mr. Cooper, but we can undo his wrongful conviction with a pardon.”
Gov. Mike Pence has so far issued 3 pardons. Keith Cooper is waiting for a pardon for a crime he didn’t commit. https://t.co/Bp9ejULpXu
— Kristine Guerra (@kristine_guerra) December 8, 2015
Currently, there are 18 pardon requests awaiting the signature of Governor Mike Pence.
Cooper sat at his home in Country Club Hills, Illinois, as Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence gave a speech at the Republican National Convention. He listened Mike Pence speak about conservative Midwestern Values, with the words “and justice for all” spoken proudly on the television. Cooper could feel anger enter his thoughts, wondering where he fit into the “justice for all” portion.
“He had the power to do what was right and pardon me — an innocent man — and he hasn’t. Listening to Pence’s speech angered me. Hearing him say, ‘That we are, as we have always been, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Does that apply to me?”
[Image via Lev Radin/Shutterstock]