In 2016, Cooper’s pardon application was declined by Indiana’s former governor, Mike Pence, despite his having the support of the state’s parole board, prosecutor, and witnesses.
The city of Elkhart, Indiana, has agreed to a $7.5 million settlement with a Chicago man wrongfully convicted of robbery on evidence fabricated by police, according to a report by the Associated Press.
After serving seven years of a 40-year prison sentence for a 1996 armed robbery in which a teenager was wounded by gunfire, Keith Cooper’s conviction was overturned. DNA evidence ultimately ruled out his involvement in the crime and fingered the actual perpetrator. He was released from prison in 2006.
But Cooper’s fight for justice didn’t end there. In 2009, he began his bid for a pardon because, though he had been released from prison and cleared by DNA evidence, his wrongful conviction had not been overturned. In 2016, Cooper’s pardon application was declined by Indiana’s former governor, Mike Pence, even though he had the support of the state’s parole board and prosecutor, as well as witnesses. The pardon was later granted by Pence’s successor, Gov. Eric Holcomb.
In November 2017, Cooper filed suit against the city of Elkhart, along with its former chief of police and three police officers who allegedly framed him for the armed robbery.
According to the lawsuit, before his arrest, Cooper was a family man with a wife and three kids, a job, and no previous criminal history. He says his wrongful conviction by police misconduct “nearly destroyed his life.” His wife sold off what they owned and was forced to resort to living in shelters to survive.
Investigations into Cooper’s case concluded that police had indeed coerced evidence and falsified reports, lending credence to his claims that the Elkhart Police Department regularly pursued wrongful convictions, AP reports.
Cooper’s lawsuit “exposed the systemic pattern of police and prosecutorial misconduct that exists in Elkhart, Indiana,” said Cooper’s attorney, Elliot Slosar.