Hope Deferred for Timothy Cole

On the way into work this morning, I listened to a follow-up on the story of Timothy Cole, a Texas Tech student falsely accused of being a serial rapist – more here, including a repeat of the story: Family Of Man Cleared By DNA Still Seeks Justice.

Brief summary: In 1985, Texas Tech student Michele Mallin was raped in a parking lot. She identified Timothy Cole as her attacker, although police had no physical evidence linking him to the crime and he had an alibi that was supported by several eye-witnesses who could prove he was elsewhere at the time. Lubbock law enforcement officials, however, were determined to convict him, which they easily did with the help of Cole’s erroneous identification by the victim and an all-white jury.

In a strange turn of events, Cole’s cries on his first night of prison were heard by the true attacker, who was in prison for another rape. This man, Jerry Wayne Johnson, kept quiet until the statute of limitations ran out, finally coming forward in 1995. By then, no one would listen, and it took until 2007 for Johnson to reach Cole’s family, who sought the help of the Innocence Project of Texas to clear their son’s name.

Today, Michele Mallin will testify in court in defense of Timothy Cole, and will be joined by his family. Sadly, appallingly, this day comes too late for Cole himself, who died in prison in 1999 from asthma that was never properly treated while he was behind bars.

You know when you’re driving how, if you let your mind wander, you have no recollection of driving a piece of the road? Well, you DC residents will shudder to know that this story so engrossed me that I can’t remember anything between Wolf Trap and Herndon on the Toll Road. It is a textbook example of racism at work in the justice system, including: Mallin’s false identification of Cole (which although I believe was extenuated by the trauma of rape and the fact that she was led to believe that the Lubbock police actually had evidence against Cole, still demonstrates how easy it is to misidentify someone); the lack of even a shred of physical or even circumstantial evidence; Lubbock law enforcement’s utter failure to identify that they already had the actual perpetrator in their hands; the prosecution’s demeaning destruction of truthful Cole’s alibi; and an all-white jury. Add the Texas justice system’s refusal to entertain Johnson’s confession and sub-standard medical care to the picture after Cole’s wrongful conviction, and the miscarriage of justice is complete.

If what happened to Timothy Cole was rare, then perhaps I might feel better about the overall state of the U.S. justice system where race is a factor. But as this morning’s NPR program says,

So far this decade, 34 men in Texas, most of them black, have been exonerated by
modern DNA testing. They spent 10, 15, 20, even 27 years wrongly imprisoned for
rape before being released.
We have a long, long way to go.

More here:

Hope Deferred: Search for a Lubbock rapist sends family on nightmare journey
Hope Deferred: Tim Cole sat in prison while another man kept silent about the truth ... finally, he tried to confess, but no one would listen
Hope Deferred: Tim Cole's family gets DNA report proving what they always knew

Comments

motherissues said…
I heard that this morning too and had the workplace-parking lot version of a driveway moment. What a sad, horrible, but captivating story! I only wish it were more of an outlier than it seems to be. Thank you for the extra links.
Lauren said…
I listened to the story on NPR this morning as I drove my daughter to day care. I couldn't help but cry after hearing this sad story of this young man wrongfully convicted simply because of his race. I reject more than ever the idea that a black man or woman in America can receive a fair trial from an all white jury, especially when the victim is white. The justice system needs to revise jury selection so that a portion of the jury represents the ethnic background of the accused.

It's obvious that justice and race is an important issue in America, and I hope the new Obama administration tackles that issue. Systematically diversifying the members of the jury is not the ultimate solution but I think it would be one step towards equal justice for all.
Lori said…
I heard the story this morning - just another reason why I don't announce to people that I was born in Lubbock. It's probably more provincial than Midland, and that's saying something. I hope he can at least be exonerated in death...but it's so stupid and pointless.
rosemary said…
God, this is so horrible. It sends shivers up my spine.
Speller said…
My heart broke this morning when I heard this story on NPR.

Am I wrong to add this to the Bush Legacy given this happened in Texas, during Bush's Texas Gubernatorial leadership in wrongful convictions and executions, and continued under the climate of Bush's Executive Administration in the White House. Am I wrong. The hubris of the Texas Judges in this case is stupefying. Does truth mean nothing?

I may be wrong, but my heart aches as I shed a tear for this innocent, young, destroyed life. Perhaps no one is too blame, because we are all to blame. This could have been my son or nephew. God Bless and keep you.
Lauren P said…
I also heard this on NPR this morning. Incredibly sad and the fact that the legal system that convicted this young man is so reluctant to finally step up and clear his name is disgusting. Even when confronted by the evidence that they made a mistake, they hide and avoid and prolong justice for the family. Not that the family will ever know justice since their family member is dead.
Anonymous said…
Congress should be lobied to have prosecutors put in jail for charging an innocent person. The jury should also be charged with false conviction and be jailed.
Anonymous said…
This man died in prison, many innocent men have died before him and many more innocent men will die in prison after him as long as prosecutors are the ones deciding what evidence is exculpatory instead of a judge, and we keep letting prosecutors who withhold evidence from defendants get away with it, as a matter a fact they are often rewarded for this.

By: Sailingwindward
Wishnik said…
From here near NYC, we had the Central Park jogger rape case. A woman (brain damaged in the attack and did not identify anyone) was raped and beaten. A number of young men were picked up and those who confessed - sometimes elaborate confessions - spent jail time. Years later better DNA evidence nailed the true rapist, I believe he also was in jail for something else. In this case the convicted young men were in fact committing a different though much lesser crime - on someone else.
blackbelt said…
Even profanities cannot adequately express the anger I feel for Timothy Cole and his family. And every black in this country.

This is the guillotine that hangs over every black person in the US. Me? OK, so they ignore me at the stores and think I'm good at math. But if you are black??

If I get upset that a boy in class is mean to my son. . . how can Cole's mother, his family, go on??

If I did not have hope in God, I would want to give up at the injustices.
Anonymous said…
As a caucasion born and raised in Texas, you have my most sincere condolances. The racism that runs deep through my former home is shameful, petty, and needs more articles like this to expose these kinds of injustices.

All states should be required to go back and do DNA testing on all cases where it could prove innocence. I think America would be shocked by the number of wrongful imprisonments we would discover.
When I too first heard this story about Tim Cole, it may me want to write about it. So I contacted the Innocence Project of Texas, Tim Cole's mother and family, researched the original transcripts and police investigative reports, conducted numerous interviews. Out of this came my forthcoming book titled A PLEA FOR JUSTICE: The Timothy Cole Story, published by Eakin Press, and set for release about May 01, 2010. For more information, go to www.timothybriancole.com

My thanks to Third Mom for speaking out on this tragedy. Sincerely, Fred B. McKinley

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