Wrongful convictions have become a surprising norm as of late, which only feels bittersweet at best when the person is finally exonerated. Of course, settlement money is a pretty nice start on the road to making things right.
Keith Cooper of Chicago is the latest innocent victim to understand what we’re talking about after he spent seven years in prison for a robbery that he didn’t commit. After being pardoned in 2017, he’s now reached a whopping $7.5 million settlement in Elkhart, Indiana that highlights the bigger problem of misconduct within the city’s police department.
Cooper’s multimillion-dollar win marks the largest wrongful conviction settlement in Indiana history, according to AP News. His lawyer, Elliot Slosar, says the lawsuit “exposed the systemic pattern of police and prosecutorial misconduct that exists in Elkhart, Indiana,” going on to add, ““Mr. Cooper’s wrongful conviction did not happen by accident nor was it an aberration.” The robbery in question occurred in 1996, resulting in a teenager being shot and wounded. He originally received a 40 year sentence, but DNA testing and the nationwide offender database helped identify another person as the attacker.
More below on how Cooper eventually became not only a free man but a multimillionaire too, via AP:
“The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned his co-defendant’s conviction in 2005, and Cooper was given the choice of being released with a felony record or facing a new trial before the same judge who convicted him. He elected to be released in 2006.
Cooper’s pardon by Holcomb was followed in March 2017 by a judge’s approval of the expungement of his armed robbery conviction.
Cooper had sought a pardon since 2009 and the deputy prosecutor who handled his trial asked then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2015 to approve the pardon to remove the felony conviction.
But Pence’s general counsel notified Slosar in September 2016, two months after Pence became Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, that he believed Cooper needed to first exhaust all his options in court for having the conviction overturned before a pardon would be considered.
Cooper sued Elkhart, its then-police chief and three officers in November 2017, alleging that the officers framed him for the crime and ‘nearly destroyed his life.’ Two of those officers are no longer Elkhart officers and the third is dead, Slosar said.”
If you get too caught up on the hefty monetary value of his settlement, it can be easy to overlook how much Cooper lost as a result of this mishap. He went from being a married and employed father of three with no criminal record to his wife being subjected to selling their belongings and living in shelters to survive. He could use a few more M’s if you ask us!
“There’s no amount of money that can get back the time I lost,” he said during a news conference in his hometown of Chicago. While we wholeheartedly agree, we also hope the money is able to bring him and his family some stability.
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