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Justice comes after inmate’s death

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On Friday, March 19, Texas Governor Rick Perry granted the state’s first posthumous pardon to Tim Cole, according to a report by Elliott Blackburn of the Lubbock based Avalanche-Journal.

Cole was targeted by undercover officers investigating a series of rapes on and around the Texas Tech University campus in Lubbock in 1985. His picture was included in a photo lineup, and he was arrested and convicted based on a witness identification.

The night he was convicted, as Mr. Cole wept in his cell, the man in the adjacent cell knew Cole was innocent. Because it was that man, Jerry Johnson, who had committed the rapes. Years later, after the statute of limitations had run, Johnson confessed to having committed the rapes. The Innocence Project of Texas became involved and DNA tests proved that Johnson was telling the truth and that Cole was innocent.

Unfortunately, Cole had died in 2005 from an asthma attack. He had been held wrongfully in prison for 20 years.

Though this was Texas’ first posthumous pardon, Cole’s is not the only exoneration to take place after an inmate died in prison. That 250 men have been exonerated by innocence projects around the country is a testament this fact. Still, Texas has taken a proactive role in correcting its mistakes, as is made clear not only by the governor’s pardon but also in the changes that the state made to its wrongful conviction compensation laws as a direct result of Cole’s case.

While both those actions may have assuaged the grief of Cole’s family to a degree, nothing can bring back their innocent son, brother and uncle. Everyone involved in the case, from the district attorney who prosecuted Cole, to the young woman who misidentified him, suffered to some degree from a faulty system in which overzealous suspect targeting is not counterbalanced by proper oversight and equal defensive investigation.

The full story that reported this information on Cole is excellent. Check it out here.

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