Tim Cole died in 1999 in prison after he suffered complications for an asthma attack. He was serving time for a rape he did not commit. He was exonerated in 2010 on the basis of DNA evidence and received the first Texas issued posthumous pardon. This past week, after a two year battle by his family, he receive Texas’s first historical marker that was dedicated to an exonerate criminal. The marker will be located in a cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas just feet from where he is buried.
Since 1989, nearly two hundred ninety people have been exonerated due to post-conviction DNA testing. This includes seventeen inmates that were on death row. In nearly seventy-five percent of the cases misidentifications by a witness was a factor. Nationwide, Texas had more DNA exonerations than any other state. The total DNA exonerated prisoners totaled forty.
On the market is the story of how Tim Cole was convicted of raping a fellow student in 1986 at Texas Tech University. He was sentenced to serve twenty-five years and was offered a plea bargain which he turned down because he refused to admit his guilt. He also lost a parole opportunity for the same reason. Tim Cole was an Army veteran and had served more than thirteen years on prison before he died.
The efforts to clear his name came when a letter was received in 2007 by the Innocence Project of Texas from an inmate who confessed to the crime. Using preserved DNA evidence proved that an inmate by the name of Jerry Wayne Johnson had committed the rape. The victim of the attack had identified Tim Cole as the one who raped her in a physical lineup and by a photo. She also joined in the efforts to bring Tim Cole justice.