"I am a free man now": Wrongly convicted man talks about pardon

Cooper pardoned
Cooper pardoned
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CHICAGO (WTHR) - Thursday, he was just another convicted criminal alleging his innocence.

Friday, he is the first person in Indiana history to have a governor believe him. It's the unlikely story of Keith Cooper and Governor Eric Holcomb.

Cooper's attorneys had a pardon petition in front of former Governor Mike Pence for four years and heard nothing. Governor Eric Holcomb had it for four weeks and acted.

It was a moment Keith Cooper was not sure would ever come.

"I am a free man now. I am finally free. I got my name back. I am Keith Cooper," Cooper said during a news conference in Chicago Friday. "Not Keith Cooper with the DOC #975234."

By signing his pardon on Thursday, Holcomb made Cooper the very first person to receive a gubernatorial pardon for innocence in Indiana history.

"I just determined that it is never too late to do the right thing and I believe the right thing was to pardon him. So that is what I did yesterday and I am rooting for him and hope one day to meet him," Holcomb told Eyewitness News Friday.

"Yes, I would love to meet Governor Holcomb," Cooper said. "I would thank him for having compassion and a heart for taking less than 30 days to pardon me, an innocent man."

Asked how the meeting will work out, if he would be reaching out to Cooper, Holcomb said, "I certainly will, but I want to give him some time that he needs to absorb this and I was pleased to see that he was smiling and I am, too."

"I want to shake his hand and give him a hug and I am going to tell him he gave me my life back," Cooper concluded.

Cooper and his attorney's words were not as kind when it comes to Vice President Pence.

"Keith Cooper's wrong conviction was not a mistake. Just as Governor Pence's inaction was not a mistake. Governor Pence deliberately avoided Keith Cooper's pardon petition because he knew it was not politically palatable in a presidential campaign," Cooper attorney Elliot Slosar stated.

Pence was not the only person Cooper singled out for criticism Friday. He also mentioned Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, who formerly served as Elkhart County Prosecutor.