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'A thousand pounds of weight has been lifted off my chest': Elkhart man pardoned

Good news for an Elkhart man who spent nearly a decade in jail for a crime he didn't commit.

Governor Eric Holcomb pardoned Keith Cooper.

Cooper has been out of prison for a decade but this pardon is one of the final steps in trying to clear his name.

He was arrested in 1996 after two people living in his apartment building were robbed at gun-point.

Witnesses recanted testimony against him and DNA evidence proved him innocent.

Since getting out of prison, Cooper has been asking for a pardon.

This week he finally got it.

"It feels like a thousand pounds of weight has been lifted off my chest,” Cooper said.

"It's an incredible feeling knowing that we won and that Keith got his name back and that justice was finally provided to Keith and his family,” said Elliot Slosar.

Cooper celebrated with family and friends Friday. He was in good spirits... but still had lingering resentment to one man -- Former Governor Mike Pence -- who refused to pardon him.

"He chose his political career instead of doing what was right by an innocent man,” Cooper said.

But he says he's still grateful. This pardon brings closure to his life.

"I don't have to be scared of cops no more, whether they might lock me up or say that I was involved in another robbery. I don't have to worry about those days anymore,” Cooper said.

The pardon also brings closure to two others, the victims of that 1996 robbery -- Nona Canell and Michael Kershner.

Canell says she asked to see a line-up of suspects and for DNA testing. Detectives offered neither.

Despite that, her testimony played a role in Cooper's conviction.

"Please forgive me. I know you must be angry. I would be. But this was not intentional and i pray to god that one day you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” said Cannell.

For Cooper to be truly free he needs to go one step further. Right now, his conviction is still on his record.

"I want that all off my record, I don't ever want it to pop up ever again,” Cooper said.

For that, he needs an expungement-- which seems likely.

"After a governor issues a pardon, we're entitled to an expungement. The state doesn't have the ability to object,” Slosar explained.

In the meantime, Cooper has big plans.

"I’m going to try to set up a trip and take all my family,” Cooper said. “We're gonna go down there to Disneyland."

Nona Canell and her son, Michael Kershner, were some of the strongest supporters of Cooper's pardon.

In video statements both cried and apologized for the part they played in Cooper's conviction.

Canell says the detectives pushed her to identify Cooper and told her there was no DNA evidence.

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