Forth Worth Man's Tragic Death Now Helping Others

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    Two laws inspired by a man who died in prison after he was wrongly convicted go into effect Tuesday.

    It's been a year of bittersweet triumph for the family of Timothy Cole.

    Cole, of Fort Worth, died in prison while serving time for a sexual assault he did not commit. He was exonerated years later by DNA evidence.

    His name is on two pieces of legislation designed to help the exonerated get back on their feet and prevent false convictions in the future. The laws go into effect Tuesday.

    FW Man's Wrongful Conviction Leads to New Laws

    [DFW] FW Man's Wrongful Conviction Leads to New Laws
    Two pieces of legislation, inspired by a Fort Worth man who died in prison, became law on Sept. 1. Both laws hope to address the problem of wrongful convictions and provide compensation for those later exonerated.

    "I never in my wildest dreams thought that my son's name would be in the lawbooks and in the annals of Texas history," said Cole's mother, Ruby Session. "I just never dreamed that."

    The Timothy Cole Compensation Act will provide a lump-sum payment of $80,000 for each year the wrongly convicted spent in jail. They'll also get a lifetime annuity payment and money for college tuition. It also compensates the estate of exonerees who died in prison.

    The Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions will study the issue and recommend procedures and programs to prevent false convictions in the future. It will have its first meeting in the fall and prepare a report for the next legislative session.

    James Woodard spent more than 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and is entitled to a lump sum of more than $2 million under the new provisions.

    "The bill helped me and persons like me tremendously as far as the financial and even a sense of retribution, you know," Woodard said. "Money don't even begin to try to compensate a life like my life, but it does give me something to kind of appease me."

    But Arlington attorney John Stickels said people might be surprised by how much money the exonerated will actually get to keep.

    "They're going to have to pay the taxes on the amount of money they receive, and a lot of them will have to pay anywhere from 20 to 33 percent in attorney's fees," Stickels said. "I've heard there are lawyers who are going to be millionaires based upon the compensation claims."

    People who been exonerated after false convictions were able to apply for the compensation the day the law went into effect.