In 1997, a Chicago man named Keith Cooper was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a robbery and shooting in Elkhart, Indiana, he didn’t commit.
The father of three children was 29 at the time.
Cooper served nearly 10 years in prison before he was released in 2006 after he accepted a deal that guaranteed his freedom. Meanwhile, evidence of his innocence began to mount.
He is a free man now. But he still has a felony conviction to his name.
In order to turn over a new leaf, Cooper needs to clear his criminal record — and to do that he needs a pardon from the governor’s office.
Also, if Cooper is granted a pardon, it would be the first time in Indiana's history that a governor pardoned someone based on innocence.
In a nutshell, Cooper, now 49 years old, needs to get some signatures and paperwork done and he would finally be able to build a new life after serving nearly a decade in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. And Indiana has the chance to make some history.
It’s been nearly four years now that Cooper has been requesting for a pardon. Then why isn’t Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence granting him one?
Apparently, there’s no definitive (read: logical) answer to this question.
So far, Pence has denied a pardon, saying, “out of respect for the judicial process,” asking him to further “exhaust his judicial remedies.”
But that’s really odd considering Pence has granted three pardons since he became governor in 2013 — and all three were given to offenders who had admitted guilt. In fact, his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, who served from 2005 to 2013, granted 60.
So, why is it so difficult to pardon a man who is in fact innocent so difficult?
"Literally, with a stroke of a pen, Gov. Pence could make a real change in someone's life," Elliot Slosar, Cooper's attorney, told IndyStar. "Without a pardon being granted, (the conviction) prevents him from using his educational abilities to create a better life for his family."
Now that Pence is the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s running mate, Cooper wonders and has a very important question for the entire country: “He can't even do right by me. What is he going to do for all U.S. citizens?”