Now, more than a decade after his release from Texas death row, Cook has filed a Chapter 64 postconviction DNA testing motion "to start the ball rolling to get Cook eventually declared actually innocent," reports Michael Hall of Texas Monthly who provides an excellent, extended analysis of the case in a TM blog post.
Bizarrely, prosecutors from my home town say they're puzzled why Cook would seek formal exoneration so many years after he was sprung from death row. Just for starters, I'd say it's because Jack Skeen and David Dobbs smeared him six ways from Sunday over the course of two decades while ignoring the man who DNA evidence and an investigation by the indefatigable Centurion Ministries say is likely the real killer. More immediately, Texas recently increased compensation for men exactly in Cook's position who were victimized by false convictions. And during the 2011 session, the Texas Legislature amended the post-conviction DNA testing statute to eliminate most grounds for prosecutors to object to testing. So it makes perfect sense to me why this is happening now. Indeed, if the Tyler Telegraph or Smith County prosecutors wonder why Cook is seeking exoneration, they could have just asked him. Hall did, and his post concludes with Cook's reasoning:
Cook’s case is a deeply tragic one. He was one of the first of the modern wave of men to be freed after years of wrongful imprisonment. And yet Cook never experienced a profound public vindication. He never got to raise his arms high as he was cheered leaving the courthouse—like Morton recently did. He doesn’t get millions of dollars in compensation from the state for those wasted years—like the others do. He doesn’t have a brotherhood of fellow exonerees—like the men in Dallas have. He isn’t even, technically, an exoneree.This case represents one of the darkest moments in the history of my hometown's criminal justice system, though the saddest part is that, as bad as Cook's case was, there's still substantial competition for that "darkest" label. I know Cook sometimes visits this blog, so let me be the first here to say "good luck"; if anybody deserves ultimate vindication after traumas worthy of Job, it's Kerry Max Cook.
“Every day I fight against the darkest depression imaginable,” he says, “because of what Smith County did to me and continued to do to me for 35 years. First there was the horror of my prison experience as an innocent man, then my fate when I was freed, which in some ways was almost as bad. I developed severe PTSD. I was forced to move five times by people who found out about my past. Kids won’t play with my son because they find out he’s the son of a man who was on death row. My wife and I–we have no insurance. I can’t get an apartment, I can’t get a real job. It’s been unbelievable. Nobody knows what it’s like. It’s like I’m behind another set of bars. I’m not free.
“I want the official exoneration. I want what Ernest Willis and Tim Cole and Michael Morton got. I deserve it. It’s my turn.”
MORE: From Michael Hall at TM Daily Post, see "What the Tyler Morning Telegraph failed to tell you about Kerry Max Cook." Though lets face it, it would be more than a full-time job trying to plug in all the gaps that the Telegraph "failed to tell" its readers, though I understand wanting to make an exception in this instance.