Monday, June 11, 2007

Another possible wrongful conviction with tragic results

Timothy Cole was convicted of rape in Lubbock in 1986 and died in prison in 1999. Hearing recently of his death, a man who says he's the real rapist came forward (he's currently doing 99 years in TDCJ already) and is requesting DNA testing to clear the dead man's name. The Innocence Project at Texas Tech's law school is assisting the dead man's family in the case. Reports the Lubbock Avalanche Journal ("Convict says he did 1986 rape for which other man spent life in prison," June 10):
[Jerry] Johnson didn't know Cole except from coverage of the rape trial, Johnson said. He was in prison for a different rape case at the time, in a segregated cell. The day Cole was sentenced to 25 years, Cole was briefly placed in a cell across from his before being transferred, he said.

"I didn't say nothing to him," Johnson said. "It was about four or five people in that cell, and he was crying about they were wrong for convicting him."

Johnson was convicted and sentenced on two rape charges - receiving life for the rape of a 15-year-old high school honors student, a crime he denies he did, and 99 years for the rape of a 23-year-old woman, for which he said he is guilty.

As the statute of limitations on the parking lot rape expired in 1995 and when he decided that admitting to the case could not damage his pleas that he was innocent of one of his rapes, he said he tried to locate Cole and wrote to attorneys to confess that he had committed the rape.

"My initial goal was to free this man, because I knew this man was innocent," Johnson said.

He received no response and let it sit for five years, he said.

Johnson wrote Cole's family in late May, asking Cole to contact him so they could clear his name, have him removed from sex offender lists and from being a parolee. Cole's family has long believed he was innocent and said he protested the conviction until his death in prison in 1999.


Anonymous said...

This is not a surprising revelation when one considers it happened in Texas. I sincerely hope Texas steps up to the plate and does the DNA testing so that justice is served, albeit far too late. For the sake of the family and for the sake of another dead inmate who rotted in the bowels of a Texas prison, it only seems fair that should the DNA evidence prove the state was wrong...they should admit it. You know, perhaps on page 34 of a rarely looked at newspaper. We wouldn't want it on the front page.
Unfortunately, we have other men incarcerated in this state who are innocent. Their pleas go unheard and their lives continue to be unbearable as they rot in a Texas prison.
Injustice is simply a part of living in the state of Texas.

Anonymous said...

Don't think for a minute that this scenario is unique for only Texas. And, thus far, there's no suggestion of malicious prosecution here -- only mistaken eyewitness identification, which occurs all too often. It involves witness who are HUMAN -- they make mistakes.

Plenty of front page coverage has properly been given to the Innocence Project for discovering other mistakes. But you must realize that DNA testing is not available in all cases; the evidence must have been preserved from years ago in order to have anything to test. The fact that Dallas County commendably has preserved evidence that allows modern tests to be conducted is a primary factor in freeing those wrongfully convicted.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for calling attention to this important develoment. It is my understanding that the Innocence Project of Texas (the organization that Texas Tech's innocence project is a part of) will be working on that case as well as the comprehensive review of inmate requests for DNA testing coming out of Dallas County. Hopefully the dedicated attorneys and students with that organization can uncover some of the many injustices that are taking place in the Texas criminal justice system. That way the public might become more open to accepting exonerations in non-DNA cases where there is no magic bullet to indicate scientifically proven innocence.