Monday, March 01, 2010
Story last updated at 3/1/2010 - 3:59 pm
Gov. Rick Perry on Monday made a former Texas Tech student who died in prison a convicted sex offender the state’s first recipient of a pardon after death.
Tim Cole, who was convicted in 1986 for the kidnapping and rape of a Texas Tech sophomore, was cleared by DNA evidence tested in 2008.
Perry surprised Cole’s mother, Ruby Session, with a phone call Monday afternoon telling her he had signed the pardon, Session said.
She paced her Fort Worth home and watched the rain after the phone call, she said, letting the news sink in.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Session said. “But I know Tim is smiling, and I know the tears of joy that are coming down from heaven.”
Perry’s signature came just more than 10 years after Cole’s death, and almost 25 years after a Texas Tech student was kidnapped from a church parking lot across from the university campus.
Cole came to the attention of Lubbock police in 1985 as they investigated a string of attacks on young white women near the Texas Tech campus.
He was photographed by police after he flirted with an undercover officer. The victim in one of the attacks later identified him as her attacker.
Cole professed his innocence for years, refusing to accept responsibility for the crime in order to receive parole.
He encouraged his younger brothers and sister from behind bars to pursue their own college education, even in Lubbock, until he died from complications from an asthma attack in December 1999, at age 39.
A man convicted around the same time as Cole in similar Lubbock attacks wrote letters to Lubbock court officers confessing to Cole’s crime as early as 1995.
But his claims were not given close attention until 2007. DNA testing in 2008 requested by the Lubbock County District Attorney’s office proved Johnson had told the truth.
An Austin court exonerated Cole in 2009, and legislators recognized his innocence in bills and resolutions passed in the 2009 legislative session.
But Perry had said it was not clear he could legally pardon a dead resident under Texas law.
A Jan. 7 ruling by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott clarified that, yes, he could.
Lubbock District Attorney Matt Powell and Police Chief Dale Holton wrote letters in support of Cole's clemency. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously recommended the pardon on Friday. Perry received and signed the documents Monday.
“I have been looking forward to the day I could tell Tim Cole’s mother that her son’s name has been cleared for a crime he did not commit,” Perry said in a statement. “The State of Texas cannot give back the time he spent in prison away from his loved ones, but today I was finally able to tell her we have cleared his name, and hope this brings a measure of peace to the family.”