Rape Survivor: Our System Failed By Convicting the Wrong Man of the Crime Against Me

Human Rights

In 1985, Texas Tech sophomore Michele Mallin was abducted at knifepoint and raped in Lubbock, Texas. She spent years in counseling, but was consoled somewhat by the knowledge that Timothy Cole had been arrested and convicted for the attack. She relived the crime last year, however, after learning of the "added tragedy" that Cole was innocent and had died in prison before he could be exonerated.

She wrote in an op-ed this weekend in the Houston Chronicle that her experience -- and that of hundreds of other exonerees and crime victims -- should lead to reforms in our criminal justice system that prevent future wrongful convictions and help law enforcement agencies apprehend the true perpetrators of crime.

Cole died in prison of a heart attack in 1999 and DNA testing obtained posthumously by the Innocence Project of Texas, in consultation with the Innocence Project, proved that a Texas prisoner named Jerry Wayne Johnson had raped Mallin. She wrote this weekend that she and Cole weren’t the only victims of this terrible injustice. After she was attacked, Johnson raped at least two other women -- crimes that could have been prevented if he had been apprehended after raping her.

Cole was convicted based in part on the unvalidated forensic science of hair comparison, and Mallin calls in her op-ed for the creation of federal forensic standards to ensure that the injustice she suffered doesn’t happen to anyone else.

I put my faith in the criminal justice system, and it failed me. I am back in counseling to grapple with the renewed trauma of the rape and the knowledge that I played a role in Cole's wrongful conviction by identifying him as the man who attacked me.

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