UPDATE: Today, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the official pardon for Timothy Cole, marking the first posthumous pardon in Texas history.
In a statement, Perry said: “I have been looking forward to the day I could tell Tim Cole’s mother that her son’s name has been cleared for a crime he did not commit,” Gov. Perry said. “The State of Texas cannot give back the time he spent in prison away from his loved ones, but today I was finally able to tell her we have cleared his name, and hope this brings a measure of peace to his family.”
Timothy Cole was wrongfully convicted of rape more than two decades ago and died in prison in 1999, at the age of 39. Last year, DNA testing proved his innocence, and now the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is recommending that he be fully pardoned. If the governor follows through, Cole’s case will be the state’s first posthumous pardon.
On Friday, the board notified the Innocence Project of Texas that it voted to recommend clemency. The board forwarded its decision to Gov. Rick Perry for his signature. In an e-mail to The Associated Press on Saturday, Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle wrote, “Gov. Perry looks forward to pardoning Tim Cole pending the receipt of a positive recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles.”
Years after Cole’s death, an investigation by the Innocence Project of Texas led to DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene. The test results proved Cole’s innocence and implicated another man, Jerry Wayne Johnson, who had begun writing letters in 1995 confessing to the crime. Last year, the Innocence Project served as co-counsel at an unusual court hearing to clear Cole’s name after his death, and a judge declared him innocent.
Cory Session, who has been fighting to clear his brother’s name for years, said he anticipates that the governor will sign Cole’s pardon in March during a ceremony in Fort Worth. Session said he hopes that his brother’s case helps people understand that just because people come into court underfunded and underrepresented, it does not necessarily mean that they are guilty. “The question is: How many more Tim Coles are out there?”
he told the Fort Worth Star Telegram
Last year, the Texas Legislature passed the Tim Cole Act, increasing compensation to people who have been wrongfully convicted from $50,000 to $80,000 for each year of imprisonment.
Eyewitness misidentification and unvalidated forensic science led to Cole’s arrest and wrongful conviction when he was a 26-year-old Army veteran studying business at Texas Tech in 1985. The victim in Timothy’s case, Michele Mallin, has since come forward to raise awareness about misidentifications, forensic science reform and wrongful convictions. Mallin has joined Cole’s family in working to posthumously exonerate him.
In an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle
last year, Mallin urged Congress to create a federal entity to strengthen forensic science nationwide. “I put my faith in the criminal justice system, and it failed me,” she wrote, “I have learned a great deal over the last year — about myself, about Cole and about our system of justice. One of the most troubling things I’ve learned is that juries often hear evidence that is not as solid as it sounds.”