There are some rolls of the cosmic dice that really suck. Like being a black man accused of raping a white woman in Texas.
A case in point:
- Judge moves to clear dead man of rape conviction (AP)
- Cole cleared of ’85 rape (Lubbock Online)
- Innocence Project of Texas clears convicted rapist posthumously (BradentonHerald.com)
- Judge clears name of late convict in rape (statesman.com)
Some facts about Timothy Cole’s case that seem significant to me:
- Michelle Malin, the rape victim, picked Cole out of a photo lineup, and identified him as the rapist again at the trial. Apparently that was good enough for Texas.
- Cole steadfastly asserted his innocence. He did so even when offered a plea deal that would have given him probation, rather than a prison sentence. He did so after his conviction and incarceration, during annual parole hearings, when acknowledging guilt and expressing remorse could have led to his being paroled. He did so for fourteen years, until he died in prison from complications of asthma in 1999.
- Jerry Wayne Johnson, the person DNA testing eventually proved had been the actual rapist, attempted to confess to the crime as early as 1995 — four years before Cole’s death. The authorities apparently weren’t interested in his story.
Sigh. That DNA testing came along and exposed a whole raft of injustices like this was unexpected. But from a scientific standpoint, it’s a golden opportunity. We’ve been given a chance to check a subset of our answers in the back of the book, and draw meaningful conclusions about the reliability of our other, unchecked answers.
A smart person would take advantage of that opportunity. A good person would view it as an ethical obligation, given what it says about the innocent people we are fining, imprisoning, and (especially) executing. A less-smart, less-good person would view it as being of passing, anecdotal interest, maybe, and then go back to surfing the Web.
What sort of people are we? What sort of person am I?