News 12.23.08

A Posthumous Exoneration?

Timothy Cole died in a Texas prison in 1999 while serving a life sentence for a rape he didn’t commit. DNA testing conducted this year proved that another man, Jerry Wayne Johnson, committed the rape for which Cole was imprisoned in 1987, and advocates are seeking to make his exoneration official and secure compensation for his family. In 2009, he could become the first person exonerated posthumously by DNA testing in American history.

This week, two Texas lawmakers said they would work in the coming year to make sure Cole’s innocence was formally recognized by the state next year and that his family was compensated. In 2007, State Sen. Rodney Ellis sponsored

an improvement to the state’s compensation law

that increased the amount paid to exonerees (to $50,000 per year served) and expanded state services for the exonerated. But the bill doesn’t account for the families of people exonerated after their death. Ellis, who is also the chairman of the Innocence Project Board of Directors, said he would work to fix that in 2009:

"His case is another example of the need for Texas to take responsibility and, at the very least, compensate the families of the wrongfully convicted in these posthumous exoneration cases," Ellis said. "If I had thought of a circumstance like this, I would have handled it in the bill to begin with."

A hearing in Cole’s case is set for February – attorneys at the Innocence Project of Texas are seeking to make his exoneration official through the courts.


Read the full story here

. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 12/21/08)

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