Timothy Brian Cole, a Texas Tech University student, was unjustly arrested for the brutal rape of Michele Jean Murray-Mallin that occurred in Lubbock on March 24–25, 1985. He was tried, wrongfully convicted without a single shred of physical evidence, ordered to serve 25 years, but during the thirteenth year of his sentence, he died in prison on December 02, 1999.
On the day before his trial began, Tim turned down a plea bargain, tied to an admission of guilt. He refused, because he knew that he was innocent. Later, his parole board offered an early release, but once more he refused, because he did not want to admit to a crime he did not commit. Furthermore, he said that he would rather spend his entire life behind bars rather than see his name on a sex offenders list and thereafter have to constantly look over his shoulder.
Unique Features of the Tim Cole Case, Offered in Support of TIMOTHY BRIAN COLE as a Recipient of a Posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom:
- Albeit after the statute of limitations on Michele Murray’s rape had expired and almost eight years after Tim Cole’s death, career criminal and Texas Department of Corrections inmate Jerry Wayne Johnson sent a letter to Tim and admitted that he was guilty of the crime for which Tim had been arrested, convicted, and incarcerated. Johnson later claimed that prior to writing this letter, he had no knowledge that Tim had died.
- Michele Jean Murray-Mallin, the rape victim, joined in the effort to exonerate Tim Cole.
- For the first time in Texas history, Jeff Blackburn, founder of and chief legal counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas, used a little-known provision in the Texas Constitution, which allows for the calling of a Court of Inquiry, originally designed to seek justice on behalf of an innocent person.
- DNA evidence and testimony were presented to the Honorable Judge Charles Baird of the 299th District Court of Texas, in and for Travis County, who issued on April 07, 2009, a full vindication of Tim Cole, who became the first person in Texas history to be posthumously exonerated by DNA testing and analysis.
- Tim Cole was the first person in the nation to be posthumously exonerated by DNA testing and analysis.
- Tim Cole was the first person in Texas history to receive a posthumous pardon, signed on March 01, 2010, by former Governor Rick Perry. Current Governor Greg Abbott, then Texas Attorney General, made this possible by confirming that the Governor of Texas has the authority to grant posthumous pardons. Otherwise, that particular power would have required a constitutional amendment.
- With the passage of the Tim Cole Act by the Texas Legislature, exonerees of wrongful convictions now receive $80,000 for each year of confinement through annuities that provide a lifetime of income, educational benefits, and other programs designed to help them better assimilate into society.
- The Tim Cole case resulted in the passage of the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions. After several months of study, the panel recommended that the Texas Legislature adopt new standards in “eyewitness” procedures, in the manner that interrogations are conducted, and in the ordering of DNA testing. During a previous session, the Legislature passed these much-needed reforms, which have become state law.
- Deserving applicants now receive an education provided by a $100,000 scholarship in Tim Cole’s name at the Texas Tech School of Law.
- For all intents and purposes, Tim Cole has become the face of the Innocence Project of Texas. He is the featured exoneree of a group of 48 others [in Texas] freed from prison by DNA analysis with the aid of this “non-profit organization dedicated to securing the release of those wrongfully convicted of crimes in Texas and educating the public about the causes and effects of wrongful convictions.”
- A State Historical Marker—the first of its type honoring a wrongfully-convicted person—was placed near Tim’s grave in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas.
- A 13-foot bronze statue of Tim Cole was placed on park land donated by the City of Lubbock near the site of Michele Murray’s abduction. This statue is the first of its type in Texas that honors a wrongfully-convicted person.
- After the September 17, 2014, ceremonies surrounding the dedication of the Tim Cole statue and park concluded, the Texas Tech School of Law presented Tim’s family with a graduation stole and certificates for the courses he completed.
- A massive media campaign, spearheaded by a successful Care2 petition with over 45,000 signatures of supporters worldwide, concluded on March 06, 2015, when the Board of Regents of Texas Tech voted in favor of granting to Tim Cole an Honoris Causa, Degree in Law and Social Justice, the first of its type at that university, Texas, and perhaps the nation that posthumously honors a wrongfully-convicted person.
Moreover, Mr. President, by adding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tim’s list of amazing accomplishments, this great honor will further recognize his individual bravery under unimaginable conditions and for service above and beyond the call of duty to both his native State of Texas and his beloved country, the United States of America.
As he languished behind bars, Tim wrote to his mother, "I still believe in the justice system even though it does not believe in me."
With such ideals and steadfast beliefs, and what has followed in his name for the common good, Tim Cole should become the symbol of the wrongfully convicted, not only in Texas, but the entire country. His story transcends politics, and in a time when racial divide seems to haunt us daily, Americans can rally around his example by bringing together congressional leaders from both sides, members of both political parties, and folks from all walks of life.
And with that, Mr. President, we firmly believe that Timothy Brian Cole’s story can change our justice system for the better. It has already done so in Texas—and now, we need to take it to a higher level. By bestowing upon him a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, we can begin the first step in that process.