Since 1997, Keith Cooper has been considered a criminal, despite his innocence. Being convicted guilty of armed robbery and a suspect of attempted murder, Cooper was sentenced to 40 years in prison. After DNA investigation, it was proven that he had no involvement with the case.
Yet, felony charges remained on his name. This prevented him from being able to engage in many of the activities, such as working and providing for his family, that a typical man his age would be able to do.
After years of ignoring the case, former Indiana governor and current Vice President Mike Pence refused to grant a pardon that would remove the felony charges. This frustrated Cooper and advocates, like Jack Heller, P.h.D. – English professor at HU.
The frustration continued as a petition on Change.org, created by Heller, circulated the Internet and became viral within weeks. Even with upwards to 34,000 signatures, the pardon remained ungranted.
That is, until February 9th, when a tweet from Governor Eric Holcomb exonerated Keith Cooper.
Heller said there was no former warning or indication that the pardon would occur. It was abrupt and unexpected.
Heller said prior to Thursday, February 9, he was already planning the next move for the petition site.
Little did he know that the next move would be the pardon.
A charge of battery remains on Cooper’s record, but the exoneration was a significant advancement. The change has stunned and overwhelmed both Cooper and his advocates.
“My emotions were all over the place that day,” Heller said. “Elation, relief, concern that it wasn’t exactly a full pardon, exhaustion and even a little crying.”
This journey has been taxing on Cooper and his family. He is not able to move forward with a cleaner name.
Heller plans to remain in touch with the family as they begin to discuss compensation for the time that Cooper spent in prison as an innocent man.
For so long, the phrase, “justice prolonged is justice denied” has plagued the situation.
That has changed.
On the day of his exoneration, Cooper stated to the Chicago Tribune, “Justice has prevailed. We won.”