Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Remembering Timothy Cole

Timothy Cole's half-brother Cory Session had an op ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram yesterday on the 10th anniversary of his sibling's death. Timothy was falsely convicted of a rape based on victim eyewitness testimony, but DNA evidence (and the real perpetrator's confession) later proved his innocence - unfortunately not until years after after he'd died in prison of untreated asthma complications. Wrote Cory:

One of the most infamous days in the history of the Texas judicial system occurred 10 years ago today. Timothy Cole died an innocent man in a Texas prison cell.

An Army veteran and college student who was pursuing the American dream ended up living — and dying — an American nightmare.

This year, he became the first person to be posthumously exonerated, thanks to state District Judge Charlie Baird.

In many of the letters Tim wrote from prison after being convicted of a rape he didn’t commit, he mentioned three things that he longed for — vindication, exoneration and a full pardon from the governor.

The quest for the pardon continues.

On July 1, 2009, Tim’s 49th birthday, Gov. Rick Perry said that he does not have the power to pardon the dead. Perry said he needed a constitutional amendment because of a several-decades-old opinion from former state Attorney General Waggoner Carr that prevents him from doing so. We await a modern opinion from the current attorney general, Greg Abbott. ...

There is an epidemic in our state and it is not H1N1. It is Texas’ addiction to conviction. Some of the powers that be must get a vaccination of common sense to help break their habit. The law of parties, in which an accomplice to a murder can be executed even though he didn’t kill the victim in the case, should not be the law of a political party to show that one is tough on crime. ...

The "Eyes of Texas" are upon itself. It is the duty of the governor to pardon those who have been wrongfully convicted whether they are dead or alive and fulfill the final words of the pledge: "liberty and justice for all."

Meanwhile, at Texas Tech a scholarship has been established in Timothy Cole's name by two former employers who I respect a lot:

Jeff Blackburn, a director of the Innocence Project of Texas, and Kevin Glasheen, who has represented about a dozen wrongly convicted Texans, will donate $100,000 to create an endowment named for Timothy Brian Cole.

“Tim’s story was an inspiration to a lot of us who worked on these issues — on compensation for the wrongfully convicted,” Glasheen said. “His case is so tragic because it’s too late to do anything for Tim, other than to honor his memory, and so we’re trying to honor his memory as a way of doing something for him.”

In related news, Travis County District Judge Charlie Baird who issued Timothy Cole the state's first-ever posthumous exoneration, announced he will retire from the bench and not seek re-election next year, opening up another empty seat among the Travis County district judges. Baird had called the Timothy Cole exoneration the "most important decision" of his judicial career.


Anonymous said...

The latest issue of the American Prospect revealed New Jersey is using homing devices to parole and watch it's parolee's for some very violent offenders ( gang members who often murder, retaliate) and it's working. Wouldn't it be wonderful if TX could get on board and as you mentioned "get a little more modern" about it's incarceration rates. Get over the need to lock 'em and throw away the key! Sandra

Anonymous said...

It's a great day for justice in Travis County with the news Baird is retiring!

Anonymous said...

How about an exoneration for Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott.
Both whom have lost 10 years of their lives for wrongful incarceration.
Even if Rosemary will not admit it.
These guys were railroaded

Anonymous said...

Who was the defense attorney anyway? What does that say about this individual?

Anonymous said...

Hey Grits, thanks for continuing to share anything Cole related.

Please consider deleting any comments that attempt to highjack the posts true intent. I request this in anticipation of Mr. Cole's family visiting GFB. Thanks.

To: The Cole family, Our prayers are with you all, let it be known that Tim's death will not be in vain. The continued actions of the masses will not let it go away.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

FWIW, 1:14, I've been told by folks who've reviewed the transcripts (I have not) including Cole's half-brother Cory Session, that the defense attorney in this case did a pretty good job. As I recall (Cory, or somebody, please correct me if I'm wrong), he actually named and accused the real killer in court and tried to convince the jury the eyewitness was wrong. But they believed the victim over Cole's alibi evidence and voted to send him away. A rape victim on the stand pointing and saying "He did it" is a powerful thing.

And to preempt the next question, the victim/witness in this case had no malice, she just made a mistake. She and Cole's family have met and reconciled, and she joined them along with the Innocence Project of Texas this session to lobby for eyewitness ID reforms. She feels terrible and it was an honest, awful mistake, but to her great credit she stood up and took responsibility.

Though it's certainly not true yet, I'd like to think that one day this case will be viewed as an anachronism. Today we know more about the relation between human eyesight and memory as well as why eyewitnesses become certain of false IDs. We know more about the frequency of eyewitness error and the utter lack of policies and standards, much less use of best practices, on eyewitness IDs by law enforcement agencies. Still, for now the law and the courts treat eyewitnesses as virtually gold standard evidence.

Scott Stevens said...

To Anonymous 6:58: If you want to trash someone have the courage to use your real name.