Convicted killer meets the former Oklahoma governor who freed him

Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, who commuted Aaron Cosar's life sentence and signed his parole, surprised the ex-convict Monday by dropping by the classroom where Cosar now teaches life skills to other former inmates.
By SEAN MURPHY, AP Published: June 25, 2013
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Freed from prison after nearly 25 years, convicted killer Aaron Cosar always wanted to shake the hand of the man who granted him his freedom.

Monday, Cosar got his opportunity.

Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, who commuted Cosar's life sentence and signed his parole, surprised the ex-convict by dropping by the classroom where Cosar now teaches life skills to other former inmates.

“This is a shock. You're going to make me start crying,” Cosar told Henry as the ex-governor strolled into Cosar's small teaching space at The Education and Employment Ministry. “I really just want to thank you.”

Cosar was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1986 for the shooting death of an Ada man after a night of drinking when Cosar was 19 years old. He served nearly 25 years in prison before Henry agreed to commute his sentence and sign his parole. Cosar was released two years ago. Henry, a Democrat, said he was swayed in part by Cosar's work in a prison ministry and that he helped teach a life skills course to other inmates.

“There are many clear indicators of success outside of the prison walls. People can overcome their challenges and be successful,” Henry said. “I wasn't the least bit concerned that he wasn't going to succeed and become the person who he is.

“He made a mistake way back when, and he paid the price and learned from that mistake, and now he's helping other people.”

In an unusual move, Pontotoc County District Attorney Chris Ross, who was a young prosecutor when he sent Cosar to prison, said his office did not object to Cosar's parole the second time he was eligible to be released.

“He may be the only person I've ever put in prison for life for murder that I haven't protested,” Ross said in a telephone interview. “It was a deal where I looked at what he'd done, how young he was. I looked at his prison record and his conduct and what he'd done while he was in prison.

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The Education and Employment Ministry can be emailed at www.teem.org

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