Board Recommends Perry Issue Pardon in DNA Case

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Timothy Cole

     

    The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole has recommended clemency in the case of man who died in prison after he was wrongly convicted of rape.

    The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported Saturday that the board's recommendation in the case of Tim Cole had been forwarded to Gov. Rick Perry's office Friday.

    "Gov. Perry looks forward to pardoning Tim Cole pending the receipt of a positive recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles," Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Saturday.

    The recommendation brought relief to Cole's family.

    "There's nothing standing in our way, and apparently, the state of Texas isn't standing in Tim's way anymore," Cory Session, Cole's youngest brother, told the newspaper. "He's not here to see it -- it wasn't meant to be -- but it brings him a lot closer."

    Cole died behind bars in 1999 at age 39. He was convicted of the 1985 rape of a Texas Tech student in Lubbock.

    A 2008 DNA test cleared Cole and implicated convicted rapist Jerry Wayne Johnson, who confessed in several letters to court officials that date back to 1995.

    Cole would be the state's first posthumous pardon.

    The pardon application dated Monday was mailed to the board by The Innocence Project of Texas.

    Last month, Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that the Texas Constitution limits pardon power only in cases of treason or impeachment.

    Last year, Perry signed into law the Tim Cole Act, which made Texas the nation's most generous state in compensating the wrongly convicted. It went from paying the wrongly convicted $50,000 for each year of incarceration to $80,000 per year, plus a lifetime annuity that varies based on life expectancy and other factors.

    Cole's family is eligible to benefit, but has not filed a claim.

    Last year, a state district in Austin pronounced Cole not guilty during an exoneration hearing. The judge cited mistaken witness identification, questionable suspect lineups and a faulty police investigation in Cole's wrongful conviction.

    As a Texas Tech University student, Cole became the target of a serial rape investigation in Lubbock after asking out a female undercover officer who was posing as a student to attract the rapist.

    He was sentenced to 25 years and maintained his innocence until his death from complications of asthma.

    Johnson, who was serving life in prison for a series of other rapes, mailed a confession to Cole's home address in 2007 -- not knowing Cole had been dead for eight years. Cole's mother received the letter, and along with the Innocence Project of Texas, she pressed for DNA testing.

    The 2008 DNA test linked the rape to Johnson, who wrote several confessions to Lubbock County prosecutors and judges beginning in 1995 -- when Cole was still alive. But his letters were ignored.

    Johnson cannot be prosecuted for the rape that sent Cole to prison because the statute of limitations has expired.

    Cole's family has filed a federal lawsuit that specifically seeks discovery from a Texas Tech police officer and four Lubbock police officers, including the undercover officer.