Cole's yearbook photo
|Born||Timothy Brian Cole
July 1, 1960
|Died||December 2, 1999
|Criminal charge||Rape (posthumously overturned)|
|Criminal status||Died in prison|
|Parent(s)||Ruby Cole Session (Mother) DeWitt R. Session (Father, deceased)|
Cole attended two years of college followed by two years of service in the U.S. Army. After his Army service, he returned to college at Texas Tech in Lubbock. Cole died after serving 14 years in prison, but was posthumously pardoned.
Crime and aftermath
On March 24 1985, Michele Mallin, a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, had just parked her car when she was accosted by a man, forced back into the car, and raped. The rape was one of a number of similar attacks in the area at the time. Police showed photographs of potential suspects to Mallin, including one of Cole, another student at Texas Tech. She picked his photograph and later picked him out from an identity parade. Cole was convicted by a jury of rape, primarily based on the testimony of the victim. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. While incarcerated, he was offered parole if he would admit guilt, but he refused. Cole died in prison on December 2, 1999, during an asthma attack. His family, later joined by the victim, sought to clear his name through the Innocence Project of Texas.
Another man, Jerry Wayne Johnson, confessed to the rape in 2007. Further, Mallin later admitted that she was mistaken as to the identity of her attacker. Mallin told police that the rapist smoked during the rape. However, Cole never smoked because of his severe asthma. DNA evidence later showed him to be innocent. Johnson confirmed in court that he was the rapist and asked the victim and Cole's family to forgive him. "It's been on my heart to express my sincerest sorrow and regret and ask to be forgiven," said Johnson, who is serving life in prison for two other 1985 rapes. However, Johnson cannot be charged in the Mallin case because the statute of limitations has expired. On February 6, 2009, a Texas district court judge announced "to a 100 percent moral, factual and legal certainty" that Timothy Cole did not commit the rape. The judge, Charlie Baird, reversed the conviction and ordered Cole's record expunged. It was the first posthumous DNA exoneration in the history of the state of Texas. Cole's exoneration led to numerous changes in Texas law.
The Texas Senate passed legislation to exonerate Cole. The Texas House of Representatives bill passed through committee and then the full house. After that, it went to Governor Rick Perry to be signed into law. Another bill, named after Cole, was passed by the legislature and sent to the governor on May 11, 2009. It made those who are falsely convicted of a crime eligible for $80,000 for each year of incarceration and provide them with free college tuition. The bill also established the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions. A panel set up to study the causes of wrongful convictions and to devise ways of preventing them is to report to the Texas governor no later than 2011. While Perry stated he wanted to issue a pardon, he felt that he was not legally able to do so. However, on January 7, 2010, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion which cleared the way for the governor to pardon Cole. On March 2, 2010, Governor Perry granted Timothy Cole the state's first posthumous pardon. On May 19, 2015 Governor Greg Abbott signed the Tim Cole Exoneration Review Commission into law. The Tim Cole Commission will review past exonerations and make recommendations to the Texas Legislature regarding criminal justice reform.
Memorials and posthumous degree
On February 3, 2012, on the third anniversary of Cole's exoneration, the State of Texas unveiled a historical marker at his grave. In June 2012, the Lubbock City Council voted to honor Cole with a memorial. The statue is the first of its kind to recognize a wrongfully convicted person. The $250,000, 19-foot (5.8 m) bronze and granite statue, paid for by local attorney Kevin Glasheen, is located at 2500 19 Street, and was unveiled in September 2014.
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- Texas: The Kinder, Gentler Hang 'Em High State (Texas' Tim Cole Act to Help Wrongfully Convicted) (TIME)