Timothy Cole Exonerated — Ten Years After His Death in Prison

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:

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?

Good question.

4 Responses to “Timothy Cole Exonerated — Ten Years After His Death in Prison”

  1. Steve Says:

    Guilty as charged. I am less-smart and less-good. While this is clearly the right thing to do, how can we pick this right thing to do out from among the million other right things?

    We humans are limited beings.

    So if we take it as a given that this cause is probably not going to be in the top ten lists of anyone reading this post, what can we do in our own limited way to help?

    Even better, if you’re adding this to your top ten list, what are you going to do about it?

  2. right_of_reagan Says:

    DNA is NOT 100% foolproof. A lot of leftwingers are using DNA tests to flood the streets with dangerous criminals that have already been PROVED guilty in a court of law. While it is true that because of the conflicting evidence of the DNA test we we cannot be certain that Cole was guilty in this particular case, we do know that the police had him in that lineup for a reason. The man had a violent criminal background and finally got caught. Even if he was innocent in this one rape case he was guilty of countless other crimes. That is why the police put him in the lineup. Admit this to yourselves. All the bad things you have done in your life; how many times did you actually get caught? So we all get away it most of the time. Cole finally got caught, thats all that happened and the streets of Houston were ever so slightly safer for that 15 year period of his incarceration. May he rest in peace.

  3. knarlyknight Says:


    <embed id=”VideoPlayback” src=”http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-4828488763829964651&hl=en&fs=true”

  4. knarlyknight Says:

    test failed. sorry. there is a funny video ad in that google link above

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