DNA Proves Texas Man Innocent Nine Years After he Died in Prison

Human Rights

New DNA tests prove that Timothy Cole died in a Texas prison while serving time for a rape he didn't commit, according to papers filed Friday by his attorneys at the Innocence Project of Texas. Cole was convicted of raping a Texas Tech student in 1986 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Nine years later, another inmate, Jerry Johnson, sent a letter to the Lubbock court claiming that he -- and not Cole -- had committed the rape. Johnson's claims, however, fell on deaf ears, and Cole died of asthma in prison at age 38.

But Johnson's family didn't give up. In 2007, the Innocence Project of Texas took on the case and began investigating. Biological evidence from the crime was located in the Lubbock County archives. DNA test results received last months proved that Johnson was indeed the perpetrator of the crime.

And now Jeff Blackburn, the lead counsel at the Innocence Project of Texas, is seeking to have Cole's record cleared.

"If we're going to live in a society where the court system operates in a fair way, then it's got to do it across the board," Blackburn said. "They have a right to have a court of record tell them that their son was innocent."
Read a three-part story and watch a video with Cole's family on the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Texas has more DNA exonerations than any other state in the U.S., with 32 uncovered so far. Several, like Cole's, are pending final court determination.

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