Texas Governor Rick Perry on Monday signed the first pardon of a man who died while in a Texas prison..
A January 7, 2010 ruling by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott , who was born in Wichita Falls, clarified that legally it was permissible for the governor to grant a pardon to a dead resident.
Governor Perry had delayed signing the pardon based on the fact it was not clear whether he could legally pardon a dead resident under Texas law. After former Wichitan Greg Abbott researched the issue and gave the legal go-ahead for the pardon, the Texas governor moved forward with the pardon.
Tim Cole, who was convicted in 1986 for the kidnapping and rape of a Texas Tech sophomore, was allegedly cleared by DNA evidence tested in 2008.
Cole professed his innocence for years from the Texas penitentiary. He refused to take responsibility for the crime even when it could’ve helped his chances at parole.
Another man Jerry Wayne Johnson who was convicted around the same time as Cole in similar Lubbock, Texas, attacks, wrote letters to authorities confessing to Cole’s crime as early as 1995.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously recommended the pardon Friday.
His willingness to take credit for the kidnapping and rape for which Cole was convicted by a Lubbock jury, were not considered until DNA testing requested by the Lubbock County District Attorney’s office appeared to be consistent with Johnson’s confession.
Governor Perry called Cole’s mother Ruby Session Monday to inform her he had signed the pardon.
Ms. Session said from her Fort Worth, Texas, home, “It’s been a long time coming. But I know Tim is smiling, and I know the tears of joy are coming down from heaven.”
Governor Perry said, “I have been looking forward to the day I could tell Tim’s mother that her son’s name had been cleared for a crime he did not commit. The State of Texas cannot give back the time he spent in prison away from his loved ones, but today I was finally able to tell her we have cleared his name, and hope this brings a measure of peace to the family.”
Cole was convicted by a jury based on eyewitness testimony by the victim, who has sinced stated she believed she was wrong in her identification.
Cole, a Texas Tech student at the time he was convicted, spent the remainder of his life in prison for the kidnaping and raping of the victim from a church parking lot across the street from the Tech campus.
Cole died in prison from complications after an asthma attack. He was 39 years of age when he died in December of 1999.
An Austin court exonerated Cole in 2009. District Judge Charles Baird pronounced Cole innocent and said he had suffered the worst miscarriage of justice it was possible to suffer in the criminal justice system.
Attorney General Greg Abbott, formally of Wichita Falls, deserves plaudits for his part in helping an innocent man’s name being cleared and giving peace to the man’s mother after years of heartache.
Governor Perry also deserves credit for showing compassion to Mr. Cole’s family and doing everything he could to correct the fact the justice system did not work right originally in this particular case.
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