These circumstances are unique because Timothy Cole died in prison in 1999 and this is the first case where a Texas court could formally and posthumously exonerate a wrongly convicted man. "Cole's last words to the court - I didn't do it your honor," said then NewsChannel 11 reporter Jim Hansen saying what Timothy Cole maintained all along - his innocence. It's why his family was in an Austin court Thursday fighting for something he couldn't - the chance to clear his name. "
The Innocence Project of Texas picked Cole's case up two years ago and in the summer of 2008 tried to file the case in the same Lubbock County Court he was convicted in. "We thought Lubbock County was the most appropriate place to have the hearing to determine what went wrong in Cole's case. Unfortunately we received a denial of our motion. A one page denial granting no relief and no courts in Lubbock would grant a hearing," says Executive Director Natalie Roetzel of The Innocence Project of Texas.
The project became interested in Cole's case when a man by the name of Jerry Johnson wrote them a letter of confession giving details the project says no one else could. "We have copies of most of the letters Johnson sent to officials. He sent us a separate letter basically asking us to assist him in clearing Cole's name," says Roetzel.
Johnson began writing these letters in 1995 when the statute of limitations for rape ran out. "He waited the ten years that he needed to wait in order to make sure he wouldn't actually be held responsible for the crime and that's when he started confessing," says Roetzel.
A decade after his death Cole's family might finally see justice. "It will bring closure for the family, the victim and even the perpetrator wants to see Cole's name cleared. Tim Cole's case represents how the system can break down and how a wrongful conviction can surface," says Roetzel.
The Innocence Project of Texas tells NewsChannel 11 that Jerry Johnson will be testifying in court Friday along with a couple other witnesses. Lawyers for the Innocence Project say the Judge may render a decision on the spot. NewsChannel 11 will continue to follow the hearing and bring you the latest.
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