Timothy Cole Exonerated 24 Years Later - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/6/09

Timothy Cole Exonerated 24 Years Later

It was a bitter sweet day for Timothy Cole's family. Even though they lost their son while in prison in 1999, nearly 10 years the fight to clear his name is final and the family is the ready to move on.

Cole's case was the first of its kind, the first posthumous DNA exoneration in Texas state history. NewsChannel 11 sat down with former NewsChannel 11 reporter and current Judge Jim Hansen who covered the Cole case.

"Hearing the whole trial from beginning to end, of course I was just a reporter, not a juror, but I left the thing totally convinced justice had been done and that they had the right guy," said Hansen.

Hansen said all evidence at the time seemed to point to Cole. Hansen says he remembers the defense attorney hinting another man, Jerry Johnson, may be the one who did it.

"I do remember the attorney really pounding on the desk claiming that Jerry Wayne Johnson was just as likely to have committed the crime as Timothy Cole, he said that during the trial," adds Hansen.

Johnson laid low until 1995 and after the statute of limitations expired on the rape charge. That is when Johnson started writing letters confessing that he was responsible for raping Michelle Malin.

"The defense attorney asked the jury for hope, hope for Timothy Cole," reported Hansen in 1986. Timothy Cole had hope but the Lubbock community wanted justice. "Within a real short time frame there were a large number of sexual assaults in and around the Tech area. The Tech community was terrified and there was a lot of pressure on law enforcement to solve the case," said Hansen. 

Cole's case is an example of the imperfections within our justice system.

"Everyone has to be careful at every level of the Criminal Justice System; investigators, attorneys, judges, to make sure justice is done and not just to clear a case," says Hansen.

Jerry Johnson testified in an Austin District courtroom Friday telling Cole's family and the victim, "I'm responsible for all this. I'm truly sorry for my pathetic behavior and selfishness. I hope and pray you will forgive me."

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