ELKHART, Ind.–The City of Elkhart settled a wrongful conviction lawsuit for $7.5 million. That is the largest settlement in the history of Indiana for a wrongful conviction.
The settlement was announced Wednesday by the attorney of Keith Cooper. Cooper, who is from Chicago, served more than seven years in prison for a 1997 armed robbery and attempted murder that he didn’t commit.
“What happened here is an extraordinary thing for an extraordinary human being. The victims in this case support Keith Cooper. They’ve admitted over the last decade that they were wrong. They’ve said that police officers caused them to misidentify Keith Cooper,” said attorney Eliot Slosar who represented Cooper in civil litigation, at a news conference Wednesday.
Cooper, now 54, was pardoned in 2017 by Gov. Eric Holcomb. His civil suit claimed investigators fabricated testimony, manipulated witness lineups and disregarded DNA evidence that proved his innocence.
In 2002, DNA evidence connected the robbery and attempted murder to a serial offender in Michigan who was already serving time for a separate murder.
“It’s been a long uphill battle. I’ve been waiting 14 years for this day and now it’s here. There’s no amount of money that can get me back the time I lost. But it helps build a better tomorrow for me and my family,” said Cooper.
In a separate press conference, Elkhart city spokeswoman Corinne Straight read a prepared statement in which the city apologized for how it handled Cooper’s case.
“We hope this settlement brings to a conclusion the obvious injustice that has been rendered to Mr. Cooper. The current administration and current leadership in the Elkhart Police Department have set upon a path of accountability in the hopes that this kind of case will never happen again,” said Straight.
LISTEN: Part of the news conference