Christian Sheckler, writing for the South Bend Tribune, and Ken Armstrong, writing for ProPublica have a long, well-written piece on the investigations and subsequent convictions of Chris Parish and Keith Cooper in Elkhart County. If you enjoyed Making a Murderer, you’ll probably enjoy this article. The convictions arose out of an attempt to murder Michael Kershner in 1996. Cooper’s conviction was the subject of a pardon by Governor Holcomb in early 2017. Prior to that, it had become an election controversy when Governor Pence dragged his feet on making a decision about the pardon because he was running for Vice-President. Attorney General Hill also figured in the process since he was the Elkhart County Prosecutor, running for the AG position during the 2016 election. He had also run the Prosecutor’s office when it resisted some of Parish and Cooper’s efforts to have the conviction overturned.
Both Parish and Cooper were convicted as a result of a poor investigative process. Only after the convictions were they able to get reviewing courts to give the defects in the process the attention they deserved. That resulted in Cooper getting a deal that left the conviction in place but let him out of jail for time-served and, consequently, pursuing the pardon process to clear the conviction. Parish’s process was a little different. While Cooper had taken a deal for time-served, Parish took a chance after the initial conviction was overturned. He didn’t take a deal at that point — meaning he could have been prosecuted again. However, prosecutor’s declined to re-open the case against him at that point. He then was able to sue the City of Elkhart for the wrongdoing of its police officers and obtain a $4.9 million settlement.
Anyway, the story is worth a read. It’s deeply investigated and well-written. My only critique — and I may be off base here — is that the story has a “just so” feel to it; where the bad guys are a little too bad and the good guys are a little too good. Life’s messy, and I didn’t detect much of that messiness here – it’s pretty much bad cops and callous government officials railroading a couple of innocent guys. Which is maybe a minor critique. It seems pretty clear that Parish and Cooper had their lives upended and served significant amounts of time in jail for a crime they didn’t commit. This article does a solid job of explaining how that came to pass.