Tim Cole

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Tim Cole
Tim Cole.jpg
Cole's yearbook photo
Timothy Brian Cole

July 1, 1960
DiedDecember 2, 1999(1999-12-02) (aged 39)
Resting place Mount Olivet Cemetery (Fort Worth, Texas)
Occupation(s)Military veteran
University student
Criminal status
Conviction(s) Rape (posthumously overturned)
Criminal penalty25 years in prison (posthumously overturned)

Timothy Brian Cole (July 1, 1960 – December 2, 1999) was an American military veteran and a Texas Tech University student wrongfully convicted of raping a fellow student in 1985.


Cole attended two years of college followed by two years of service in the U.S. Army. After his Army service, he returned to college at Texas Tech in Lubbock. [1] Cole died after serving 14 years in prison, but was posthumously pardoned.

Crime and aftermath

On March 24, 1985, Michele Mallin, a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, had just parked her car when she was accosted by a man, forced back into the car, and raped. [2] The rape was one of a number of similar attacks in the area at the time. Police showed photographs of potential suspects to Mallin, including one of Cole, another student at Texas Tech. She picked his photograph and later picked him out from an identity parade. [1] Cole was convicted by a jury of rape, primarily based on the testimony of the victim. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. While incarcerated, he was offered parole if he would admit guilt, but he refused. [1] Cole died in prison on December 2, 1999, during an asthma attack. His family, later joined by the victim, sought to clear his name through the Innocence Project of Texas. [2]

Another man, Jerry Wayne Johnson, confessed to the rape multiple times, starting in 1995. [2] Further, Mallin later admitted that she was mistaken as to the identity of her attacker. Mallin told police that the rapist smoked during the rape. However, Cole never smoked because of his severe asthma. DNA evidence later showed him to be innocent. [2] Johnson confirmed in court that he was the rapist and asked the victim and Cole's family to forgive him. "It's been on my heart to express my sincerest sorrow and regret and ask to be forgiven," said Johnson, who is serving life in prison for two other 1985 rapes. However, Johnson cannot be charged in the Mallin case because the statute of limitations has expired. [3] [4] On February 6, 2009, a Texas district court judge announced "to a 100 percent moral, factual and legal certainty" that Timothy Cole did not commit the rape. The judge, Charlie Baird, reversed the conviction and ordered Cole's record expunged. [3] [4] It was the first posthumous DNA exoneration in the history of the United States and the state of Texas. [5] Cole's exoneration led to numerous changes in Texas law.


The Texas Senate passed legislation to exonerate Cole. The Texas House of Representatives bill passed through committee and then the full house. After that, it went to Governor Rick Perry to be signed into law. [6] [7] Another bill, named after Cole, was passed by the legislature and sent to the governor on May 11, 2009. It made those who are falsely convicted of a crime eligible for $160,000 for each year of incarceration—half paid as a lump sum, and half paid out over the claimant's lifetime as an annuity [8] —and provide them with free college tuition. [9] [10] Texas law firm Glasheen, Valles & Inderman also worked with Texas Senator John Cornyn to convince the United States Internal Revenue Service that compensation for incarceration stemming from a wrongful conviction should not be treated as taxable income, that instead it should be treated the same as compensation for personal injuries which is not taxable income. [8] This ultimately led to the passing of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015. [11]

The bill also established the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions. A panel set up to study the causes of wrongful convictions and to devise ways of preventing them is to report to the Texas governor no later than 2011. [12] While Perry stated he wanted to issue a pardon, he felt that he was not legally able to do so. However, on January 7, 2010, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion which cleared the way for the governor to pardon Cole. [13] On March 2, 2010, Governor Perry granted Timothy Cole the state's first posthumous pardon. On May 19, 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed the Tim Cole Exoneration Review Commission into law. The Tim Cole Commission will review past exonerations and make recommendations to the Texas Legislature regarding criminal justice reform.

Memorials and posthumous degree

Historical marker at Cole's grave Tim Cole.JPG
Historical marker at Cole's grave

On February 3, 2012, on the third anniversary of Cole's exoneration, the State of Texas unveiled a historical marker at his grave. In June 2012, the Lubbock City Council voted to honor Cole with a memorial. The statue, created by Lubbock-based sculptor Eddie Dixon, [14] is the first of its kind to recognize a wrongfully convicted person. [15] The $250,000, 19-foot (5.8 m) bronze and granite statue, paid for by local attorney Kevin Glasheen, is located at 2500 19 Street, and was unveiled in September 2014. [16]

During the first week of March 2015, the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents approved for Cole an honorary degree in law and social justice. A ceremony was held on May 15, 2015. [17] [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

Innocence Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit legal organization that is committed to exonerating individuals who have been wrongly convicted, through the use of DNA testing and working to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. The group cites various studies estimating that in the United States between 1% and 10% of all prisoners are innocent. The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld who gained national attention in the mid-1990s as part of the "Dream Team" of lawyers who formed part of the defense in the O. J. Simpson murder case.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Miscarriage of justice</span> Conviction of a person for a crime that they did not commit

A miscarriage of justice occurs when a grossly unfair outcome occurs in a criminal or civil proceeding, such as the conviction and punishment of a person for a crime they did not commit. Miscarriages are also known as wrongful convictions. Innocent people have sometimes ended up in prison for years before their conviction has eventually been overturned. They may be exonerated if new evidence comes to light or it is determined that the police or prosecutor committed some kind of misconduct at the original trial. In some jurisdictions this leads to the payment of compensation.

Kirk Noble Bloodsworth is a former Maryland waterman and the first American sentenced to death to be exonerated post-conviction by DNA testing.

Wrongful execution is a miscarriage of justice occurring when an innocent person is put to death by capital punishment. Cases of wrongful execution are cited as an argument by opponents of capital punishment, while proponents say that the argument of innocence concerns the credibility of the justice system as a whole and does not solely undermine the use of the death penalty.

Exoneration occurs when the conviction for a crime is reversed, either through demonstration of innocence, a flaw in the conviction, or otherwise. Attempts to exonerate convicts are particularly controversial in death penalty cases, especially where new evidence is put forth after the execution has taken place. The transitive verb, "to exonerate" can also mean to informally absolve one from blame.

<i>The Exonerated</i> American TV series or program

The Exonerated is a made-for-cable television film that dramatizes the stories of six people, some of whom, were wrongfully convicted of murder and other offenses, placed on death row, and later exonerated and freed after serving varying years in prison. It was based on a successful stage play of the same name written by Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank and first aired on the former CourtTV cable television network on January 27, 2005. It is directed by Bob Balaban and was produced by Radical Media.

<i>Lubbock Avalanche-Journal</i> American daily newspaper located in Lubbock, Texas

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal is a newspaper based in Lubbock, Texas, United States. It is owned by Gannett.

This is a list of notable overturned convictions in the United States.

Both Arthur Lee Whitfield and Julius Ruffin are men accused of rape in Virginia who were convicted and subsequently exonerated.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charlie Baird</span> American judge

Charlie Baird, an Austin, Texas criminal defense attorney and retired state district court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals associate judge, is best known for his efforts at promoting restorative justice during his time on the bench. He is the only judge in the state of Texas to have exonerated a deceased individual, which he did in the case of Tim Cole.

The innocent prisoner's dilemma, or parole deal, is a detrimental effect of a legal system in which admission of guilt can result in reduced sentences or early parole. When an innocent person is wrongly convicted of a crime, legal systems which need the individual to admit guilt — as, for example, a prerequisite step leading to parole — punish an innocent person for their integrity, and reward a person lacking in integrity. There have been cases where innocent prisoners were given the choice between freedom, in exchange for claiming guilt, and remaining imprisoned and telling the truth. Individuals have died in prison rather than admit to crimes that they did not commit.

The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the University of Michigan Law School, Michigan State University College of Law and the University of California Irvine Newkirk Center for Science and Society. The Registry was co-founded in 2012 with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law to provide detailed information about known exonerations in the United States since 1989. As of February 6, 2020, the Registry has 2,551 known exonerations in the United States since 1989. The National Registry does not include more than 1,800 defendants cleared in 15 large-scale police scandals that came to light between 1989 and March 7, 2017, in which officers systematically framed innocent defendants.

The Illinois Innocence Project, a member of the national Innocence Project network, is a non-profit legal organization that works to exonerate wrongfully convicted people and reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">California Innocence Project</span> American legal non-profit founded 1999

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anthony Charles Graves</span> American exonerated death row inmate

Anthony Charles Graves is the 138th exonerated death row inmate in America. With no record of violence, he was arrested at 26 years old, wrongfully convicted, and incarcerated for 18 years before finally being exonerated and released. He was awarded $1.4 million for the time he spent imprisoned, and the prosecutor who put him in prison was ultimately disbarred for concealing exculpatory evidence and using false testimony in the case.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Semanchik</span> American wrongful conviction advocate

Michael "Mike" Semanchik is Managing Attorney at the California Innocence Project (CIP). As part of his work with CIP, he has been involved in many cases involving the exoneration of previously convicted prisoners, working closely with the organization's director, Justin Brooks, and also preparing petitions for many of CIP's clients. After working at CIP while still a law student at California Western School of Law, following graduation in 2010 he became an investigator and then a staff attorney there.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alissa Bjerkhoel</span> American wrongful conviction advocate

Alissa Leanne Bjerkhoel is an American litigation coordinator at the California Innocence Project (CIP), a law school clinic that investigates cases of factual innocence while training law students. Bjerkhoel was born in Truckee, California, and later graduated from California Western School of Law (CWSL) after previously obtaining a B.A. degree She has been an attorney with CIP since 2008. Bjerkhoel has served as counsel for CIP on numerous criminal cases, and achieved the legal exoneration of a number of convicted prisoners. Bjerkhoel serves as CIP's in-house DNA expert and also serves as a panel attorney with the nonprofit law firms Appellate Defenders, Inc. (ADI) and Sixth District Appellate Program (SDAP). She is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Bjerkhoel has won a number of awards.

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  2. 1 2 3 4 Goodwin, Wade (February 5, 2009). "Family Of Man Cleared By DNA Still Seeks Justice". NPR . Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  3. 1 2 "Texan who died in prison cleared of rape conviction". CNN. February 6, 2009. Retrieved February 6, 2009.
  4. 1 2 Kreytak, Steven (February 7, 2009). "Judge clears name of late convict in rape". Austin American Statesman . Archived from the original on March 27, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
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  7. Carlton, Jeff (April 8, 2009). "Perry meets DNA exoneree's family". Houston Chronicle . Retrieved April 9, 2009.
  8. 1 2 "Timothy Cole – Glasheen, Valles & Inderman". Glasheen, Valles & Inderman. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  9. TX CIV PRAC & REM § 103.052
  10. Hoppe, Christy (May 12, 2009). "Under the Dome: Briefs from the Texas Legislature". The Dallas Morning News . Retrieved May 12, 2009.
  11. "Wrongful Incarceration FAQs". www.irs.gov. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  12. "Hidden evidence DNA is changing the way America fights crime, not its policies towards convicts". Economist. July 30, 2009. Retrieved August 20, 2009.
  13. "Texas AG says Perry can pardon dead DNA exoneree". Associated Press. January 7, 2010. Retrieved January 7, 2010.[ permanent dead link ]
  14. "Sculptor Pays Homage To Prisoner Wrongfully Convicted Of Rape". CBS 11 DFW. December 29, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
  15. "Council approves Tim Cole memorial". Fox 34 News. June 7, 2012. Archived from the original on January 29, 2013. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  16. "Community gathers to honor celebrate former students legacy". The Daily Toreador . September 18, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  17. "Texas Tech Honorary Degree Approved for Tim Cole". EverythingLubbock.com. March 9, 2015. Archived from the original on March 12, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  18. "Texas Tech Grants Honorary Degree to Timothy Cole". Texas Tech University. May 15, 2015. Retrieved May 19, 2015.

Further reading