Indiana governor and Republican Vice President nominee Mike Pence has declined to issue a pardon for a black man exonerated for his crimes. Keith Cooper was determined to be innocent of armed robbery by a state parole board and is now a free man. Without a governor’s pardon, Cooper will still have two felonies on his record, which will create obstacles in his life.
Pence said that he will not issue a pardon unless Cooper exhausts all other legal measures to remove the conviction. Cooper was convicted of committing an armed robbery in 1996 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He had served 10 years of the sentence when witness testimony was recanted, an informant admitted he lied and DNA proved Cooper was not at the scene of the crime. Despite an Indiana public defender telling Pence that Cooper is out of legal remedies, Pence still refuses to grant a pardon.
Felony convictions can prevent a person from obtaining sufficient employment or adequate housing to live a stable life. Even with exoneration, Cooper faces a strong possibly of ending up homeless and resorting to desperate measures in order to survive.
Before his VP nomination, Pence had drawn ire for putting his signature on the RFRA law that allows for discrimination against people for their sexual orientation. He also appears to support the GOP’s attitude toward women that has lately included derogatory comments regarding a former Miss Universe from Donald Trump.
Democrat John Greg, who is running for Indiana governor, has said that he will pardon Cooper if he is elected to office. The opposing Republican has not made a statement on the situation.