Justice Finally Served
Harry Cabluck, AP
Feb. 7, 2009
A man who died in prison while serving time for a rape he didn't commit was cleared Friday by a judge who called the state's first posthumous DNA exoneration "the saddest case" he'd ever seen.
Calling it "the saddest case" he'd ever seen, a judge exonerates Timothy Cole, who was convicted of rape in 1985. DNA evidence helped clear Cole -- and pointed to Jerry Wayne Johnson instead. Here, Johnson walks into a Texas courtroom on Friday, past a portrait of Cole. This was the first case in Texas history where DNA cleared someone who had died in prison.
Cole was convicted of raping a Texas Tech University student in Lubbock in 1985 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He died in 1999 at age 39 from asthma complications.
DNA tests in 2008 connected the crime to Jerry Wayne Johnson, who is serving life in prison for separate rapes. Johnson testified in court Friday that he was the rapist in Cole's case and asked the victim and Cole's family to forgive him.
"I'm responsible for all this. I'm truly sorry for my pathetic behavior and selfishness. I hope and pray you will forgive me," Johnson said.
The Innocence Project of Texas said Cole's case was the first posthumous DNA exoneration in state history...
Cole and his relatives for years claimed he was innocent, but no one believed them until evidence from the original rape kit was tested for DNA. Cole had refused to plead guilty before trial in exchange for probation, and while in prison, he refused to admit to the crime when it could have earned him release on parole.
The Innocence Project pressed for a hearing to start the process of clearing Cole's name. Cole's family now wants Gov. Rick Perry to issue a formal pardon.