Tim Cole

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Tim Cole
Tim Cole.jpg
Cole's yearbook photo
Timothy Brian Cole

July 1, 1960
DiedDecember 2, 1999(1999-12-02) (aged 39)
OccupationMilitary veteran
University student
Criminal statusDied in prison
Parent(s)Ruby Cole Session (Mother) DeWitt R. Session (Father, deceased)
Criminal chargeRape (posthumously overturned)

Timothy Brian Cole (July 1, 1960 – December 2, 1999) was an African-American military veteran and a Texas Tech University student wrongfully convicted of raping a fellow student in 1985.

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.[1] Cole died after serving 14 years in prison, but was posthumously pardoned.

Crime and aftermath[edit]

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.[2] 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.[1] 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.[1] 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.[2]

Another man, Jerry Wayne Johnson, confessed to the rape multiple times, starting in 1995.[2] 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.[2] 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.[3][4] 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.[3][4] It was the first posthumous DNA exoneration in the history of the state of Texas.[5] 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.[6][7] 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 $160,000 for each year of incarceration—half paid as a lump sum, and half paid out over the claimant’s lifetime as an annuity[8]—and provide them with free college tuition.[9][10] Texas law firm Glasheen, Valles & Inderman also worked with Texas Senator John Cornyn to convince the United States Internal Revenue Service that compensation for incarceration stemming from a wrongful conviction should not be treated as taxable income, that instead it should be treated the same as compensation for personal injuries which is not taxable income.[11] This ultimately led to the passing of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14] 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[edit]

Historical marker at Cole's grave

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.[15] 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.[16]

During the first week of March 2015, the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents approved for Cole an honorary degree in law and social justice. A ceremony was held on May 15, 2015.[17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lavandera, Ed (2009-02-05). "Family seeks to clear man who died in prison". CNN. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
  2. ^ a b c d Goodwin, Wade (2009-02-05). "Family Of Man Cleared By DNA Still Seeks Justice". NPR. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
  3. ^ a b "Texan who died in prison cleared of rape conviction". CNN. 6 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-06.
  4. ^ a b Kreytak, Steven (2009-02-07). "Judge clears name of late convict in rape". Austin American Statesman. Archived from the original on March 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-07. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ "Judge Clears Dead Texas Man Of Rape Conviction". KOVR. 2009-02-07. Retrieved 2009-02-07.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Perry meets with family of exonerated man". News 8 Austin. 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  7. ^ Carlton, Jeff (2009-04-08). "Perry meets DNA exoneree's family". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  8. ^ "Timothy Cole - Glasheen, Valles & Inderman". Glasheen, Valles & Inderman. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  9. ^ TX CIV PRAC & REM § 103.052
  10. ^ Hoppe, Christy (2009-05-12). "Under the Dome: Briefs from the Texas Legislature". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  11. ^ "Timothy Cole - Glasheen, Valles & Inderman". Glasheen, Valles & Inderman. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  12. ^ "Wrongful Incarceration FAQs". www.irs.gov. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  13. ^ "Hidden evidence DNA is changing the way America fights crime, not its policies towards convicts". Economist. 2009-07-30. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  14. ^ "Texas AG says Perry can pardon dead DNA exoneree". Associated Press. 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2010-01-07.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Council approves Tim Cole memorial". Fox 34 News. 2012-06-07. Archived from the original on 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2012-06-08. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  16. ^ "Community gathers to honor celebrate former students legacy". The Daily Toreador. 2014-09-18. Retrieved 2015-02-13.
  17. ^ "Texas Tech Honorary Degree Approved for Tim Cole". EverythingLubbock.com. 2015-03-09. Archived from the original on 2015-03-12. Retrieved 2015-03-09. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  18. ^ "Texas Tech Grants Honorary Degree to Timothy Cole". Texas Tech University. 2015-05-15. Retrieved 2015-05-19.

Further reading[edit]

  • McKinley, Fred B. A PLEA FOR JUSTICE: The Timothy Cole Story. Waco: Eakin Press, 2010.

External links[edit]