An Illinois man denied a pardon by Gov. Mike Pence for a robbery he said he did not commit requested a new trial Monday in a bid to win exoneration.
The petition for post-conviction relief, filed by an attorney for Keith Cooper, cited "unprecedented" newly discovered evidence, including DNA that pointed to another suspect, and witnesses who recanted their statements. Cooper is seeking a new trial in Elkhart Circuit Court, the Indianapolis Star reported.
The 49-year-old from Chicago was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a 1996 robbery in Elkhart in which a teenager was shot in the stomach. 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 had convicted him. He elected to be released to go home to his wife and three children, who at times were homeless during his incarceration.
Cooper has sought a pardon since 2009 and the Indiana Parole Board recommended in 2014 that Pence do so. The deputy prosecutor who helped send Cooper to prison wrote to Pence in January, saying, "We cannot undo the wrongful imprisonment of Mr. Cooper, but we can undo his wrongful conviction with a pardon."
However, an attorney for the Republican vice presidential candidate notified Cooper's attorney, Eliot Slosar, last month that Cooper must first exhaust all his options in court before Pence will consider granting a pardon. Slosar said the petition filed Monday was in response to the letter from Pence's attorney.