Tuesday, July 01, 2008

More Detail on Tim Cole Tragedy

Updating an earlier post, I wanted to point readers to excellent coverage out of West Texas of the state's first posthumous DNA exoneration: Tim Cole in Lubbock, who DNA cleared nearly a decade after he died in prison serving time for a rape he didn't commit. See the three part series "Hope Deferred" from the Lubbock Avalanche Journal:
The Lubbock paper published an editorial today accompanying the series titled "The Justice System Failed an Innocent Man," which reads in part:

Who's to blame?

  • The case against Mr. Cole weighed heavily on the victim's identification ... but this was also someone who was traumatized.
  • The police and district attorney's office believed they had the right man based on the processes they used at the time.
  • Mr. Johnson, for not telling the truth?
  • What about the system that didn't believe Mr. Johnson's confession when he tried?

It's not one person or agency's fault. In this case it's the whole system.

And I can't do any better than the Avalanche Journal editorial board in answering the question, "So where do we go from here?"

  • A court of record must officially declare Mr. Cole was innocent.
  • This case needs to be ripped open to find out what went wrong ... if only to better understand how it happened to help ensure it does not happen again. How could a man's confession ... especially when it affects another prisoner ... go unheeded for so long?
  • And finally, someone owes Mr. Cole's family an apology.

See additional, effective coverage of the case from Cole's hometown paper, the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Conflict alert: As
mentioned earlier, I recently accepted employment as a paid policy consultant for the Innocence Project of Texas which represents Cole's family, but do not participate in IPOT's legal work.

4 comments:

lowery.shirley said...

You are right about it being the entire system. A suspect in a sex crime is judged guilty by the first person they deal with and it never changes.

I have seen DA's make square blocks fit into round holes so evidence is shaped to fit the case. DA's know they have the right person and they are not about to let him get away.

But they often have the wrong person and I doubt that anyone sets out to convict an innocent man. The nature of the crimes causes good sense to go right out the window. In reading an opinion I found that even a MO SCJ believes some of the hype and myths.
These suspects are viewed as scum. They will be dealt with as harshly as the law allows. Everyone will just have to hold their noses until we get the trash taken out.
A jury by your peers means a dozen more people who view you as scum. Even innocent people start finding a 10 year plea bargain attractive.

Cheri Lincoln said...

More profound is that this same tragedy will play out in Texas prisons as time goes on.

Shirley Lowery is correct in her statements about the handling of a person charged with a sex crime. They are guilty until proven innocent...a rare thing at best.

While Tim Cole's conviction, incarceration and ultimate death within the walls of TDCJ are tragic, I believe we face a larger tragedy playing out daily in Texas. Tim Cole could be exonnerated based on DNA but many men rotting inside TDCJ have no such thing to help them prove their innocence.

I believe the average everyday citizen in Texas believes that if a court exacts a "guilty" verdict, surely they are correct. It appears that it is being proven over and over again that they are not right. I will continue to say this until someone...anyone listens. In this state a man can lose his life to incarceration by the mere word of his accuser. There does not need to be a witness or evidence or DNA. It becomes a he said~she said situation and he loses hands down. A recant does little or nothing to free the innocent prisoner as he continues to lose precious days of his life holed up in one of the Texas hell holes we call prison. Virtually all the innocent projects decline taking the case of a man accused of a sex crime if there is no DNA involved. Try 40 years for supposedly touching the breast of an angry teenage girl, or twent years for grazing the breast of a flat chested step-daughter during a fun filled wrestling match, or LIFE for supposedly trying to have oral sex with an 8 year old who fears you will break her family apart. These are but a few and if any man in this state thinks he is exempt from such an allegation he had better think again. One only needs to acuse to take away freedom.

Yes, Tim Cole is a story beyond tragic but how many more stories will be told before someone says enough? How many young men are wasting their lives in prison because some underage girl had sex with him? She looked legal, she damn straight acted legal and she consented willing to hitting her back. She walks away free and he rots in prison.

Before some zealot is overcome with the desire to begin screaming at me about this, please ask yourself how you would feel if this was your son, your husband, or your father? I invite you to go online and put Van Story into your search engine. Read his website...see the recant and then ask yourself why this man is still in prison. Ask yourself why many of these men are in prison.

When will there be an innocent project that see the need to help those without DNA? How many lives must be destroyed or how many men must die behind bars before we as a people say that enough is enough?

Abdul Alhazred said...

cases like this are one of the reasons I quit supporting the death penalty. Now we just have to get it through people's head that rape in prison should not be considered part of the punishment for a crime.

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