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June 26, 2009 3:46 PM   Subscribe

The tragic story of Timothy Cole who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit, and died because of inadequate health care in prison. He was recently posthumously exonerated based on confessions of the guilty man and DNA evidence.
posted by djduckie (26 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
What a horribly sad story. I hope the family also sues the ass off of the real perpetrator, who, though already serving a 99-year sentence, waited until the statute of limitations ran out before fessing up that an innocent man was in prison. Asshole.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:55 PM on June 26, 2009


That tag line on this post makes me sad. It may very well be appropriate, but it is very sad.
posted by idiopath at 3:58 PM on June 26, 2009


What about the woman who wrongly accused the guy? Isn't she liable for anything? Or at least the police department that did the non-investigation? This travesty goes unpunished?
posted by peppito at 4:01 PM on June 26, 2009


What about the woman who wrongly accused the guy? Isn't she liable for anything? Or at least the police department that did the non-investigation? This travesty goes unpunished?

She didn't outright accuse him, so much as she believed the police when they told her that they got the perpetrator.

And the difference between her and the real perpetrator is that Johnson, having committed the crime, knew without a doubt that Cole was innocent. Mallin, the victim, did not. (And police should have known that he didn't. But prosecutors went forward anyway.)
posted by mudpuppie at 4:07 PM on June 26, 2009


.
posted by Abiezer at 4:10 PM on June 26, 2009


1. No physical evidence linking him to the crime.
2. Evidence that directly countered the theory that he committed it (rapist was a chain smoker, he was a nonsmoking asthmatic).
3. Eyewitness testimony was one person, identifying an attacker of a different race on the basis of a polaroid photo.
4. Cole had an airtight fucking alibi supported by multiple eyewitnesses.

What the fuck, jury? If I was Timothy Cole I'd give each and every one of them a good solid haunting before passing on to my eternal destination.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:12 PM on June 26, 2009


But see, dying of inadequate health care in prison would have been OK if he had been guilty of selling a little MJ or boosting a piece of pizza when you already have two of your three strikes run out.
posted by localroger at 4:13 PM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


It was a lynching. They just wanted to find a black man and she was a young scared rape victim. the cops took advantage of the situation. I wanted to previous to that story about the musician that couldn't get his xanax and died in jail but i couldn't get it and the post about the south african reminded me of this. I was a little shocked that it wasn't on here already.

That tag line on this post makes me sad. It may very well be appropriate, but it is very sad.

Yeah i was trying to convey my personal rage about the situation. While also being kind of ironic (bringing up an image of Dr. Kings speech, while showing that the opposite was the case in this instance).

It's just all around sad. You have racist cops looking for a black man and pretty much having a "any black man would do" attitude. You have a scared, young rape victim who was assured she was doing the right thing by accusing Cole and you have the real criminal allowing all of this to happen.
posted by djduckie at 4:18 PM on June 26, 2009


Every time I thought I had read the part that would really piss me off, then I'd read a little farther and find something worse.

mudpuppie, don't be angry at the real perp*. He didn't have to say anything at all. None of us would ever know anything about this story, about the complete and total incompetence, bordering on malfeasance, of law enforcement and prosecution in Lubbock. The guy repeatedly wrote to them telling them the truth. They literally flat out didn't care.

*ok, be angry, but be angry at him for having committed rape
posted by Xoebe at 4:20 PM on June 26, 2009


But see, dying of inadequate health care in prison would have been OK if he had been guilty of selling a little MJ or boosting a piece of pizza when you already have two of your three strikes run out.

That wasn't implied and it is well known and well documented that health care in prison is more than inadequate. Toss on the fact that too frequently people of color are jailed on little to no evidence and this is a tragedy that may have been repeated numerous times with out the knowledge of the general public. If your crime is not one punishable by death and you end up dead because of the lack of caring of the penal system, then the system is broken. The bigger problem is that no one wants to fix it.
posted by djduckie at 4:22 PM on June 26, 2009


The Innocence Project of Texas sought relief in court to clear Cole's name, but no judge in Lubbock would grant them a hearing. Darnell, the former district attorney who later became a local family court judge, did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. However, he told the Lubbock paper that he regretted what happened to Cole.

Burn in hell.
posted by rtha at 4:24 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm stunned that the real rapist wrote his confession in 1995, four years before Cole's death, and yet no one acted on it, even after he:

[mailed the confession to] the district court in Lubbock

[W]rote another letter asking for an attorney so that he could legally confess.

[W]rote to the former Lubbock district attorney who prosecuted the case, Jim Bob Darnell, and asked for his help.

No reply each time. It's unfortunate that in our legal system, the incentive to do anything ends once there's a conviction.
posted by zippy at 4:27 PM on June 26, 2009



I think this is just mainly an example of how once you get an idea in your head it is extremely difficult to way it objectively in comparison with other ideas. In a way detectives are hunters and can develop tunnel vision about their quarry.

It's also a problem with the oppositional nature of the justice system. It's easy to see any attempt at proving innocence as merely a way to escape justice rather than the legitimate truth telling it is.

What about the woman who wrongly accused the guy? Isn't she liable for anything? Or at least the police department that did the non-investigation? This travesty goes unpunished?

There is of course this whole other problem that once you suggest a person or an idea your memories retroactively adjust to fit it in.

A very interesting, equally disturbing This American Life piece on the same issue of false conviction and exoneration through DNA:

Perfect Evidence
posted by Erberus at 4:28 PM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


He didn't have to say anything at all.

I see your point. You're right -- he could have never admitted it.

BUT. He felt compelled to. He knew it was the right thing and actually decided to do the right thing. Rare! So okay, points for that. But he didn't really do the right-right thing. He just did The Thing. And he waited ten years to do The Thing, covering his ass at the expense of the sobbing kid, knowing that 10 years matters more to the sobbing kid than it does to the inmate serving a 99-year sentence.

So I think I'm going to stay mad at him.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:28 PM on June 26, 2009


Its stories like these that make me want to believe in hell for agents of state repression and torture and murder. Because thats what these are.
posted by lalochezia at 4:36 PM on June 26, 2009


No statute of limitations or murder. Time to arrest the prosecutor and some cops.
posted by stevis23 at 4:36 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, Darnell did meet with the family.
posted by dw at 5:33 PM on June 26, 2009


"I hope the family also sues the ass off of the real perpetrator, who, though already serving a 99-year sentence, waited until the statute of limitations ran out before fessing up that an innocent man was in prison."

You have the right to not incriminate yourself in the US don't you?
posted by Mitheral at 5:45 PM on June 26, 2009


Ah, Lubbock. Way to make me proud. So glad I live here.

I'm usually a pretty big supporter of law enforcement, but this is ridiculous. It's hard to place the blame on any one group here (the real perp or the police) but there's no way this should ever happen.

And what you see on TV isn't true, as I'm sure many of you know--in general, the police can't submit a DNA sample to a lab and have a result in an hour. In Texas, most DNA testing goes through just a couple of labs, and the backlog of requests can make a simple test take several months to complete. It's not doing the public any favors, as situations like this show. Can't imagine why nothing has been done about it.

Reminds me of a related situation: another small town around here has a police force that refuses to tape (audio or video) their interrogations, literally because they aren't used to doing it and it would be one more thing for them to remember to do. I watched a guy who gave a confession get off scot-free a few weeks ago because the defense attorney managed to argue that the guy didn't really intend to write his confession the way it appeared on the paper.
posted by DMan at 5:52 PM on June 26, 2009


Can't imagine why nothing has been done about it.

Because too many people believe, in their heart of hearts, that if you've been arrested, you probably did sometime to deserve it. And if you're convicted, well, you definitely must've done something. Culturally, we can't handle the cognitive dissonance of a system that is built on "innocent until proven guilty" and "due process" yet regularly, perhaps even systematically, allows things like this to happen. So we ignore it as best we can, and when stories like this break the surface, we pretend that it's a terrible, but isolated, incident. We don't have the courage or the heart to confront it, and we don't want to pay for it.
posted by rtha at 6:17 PM on June 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Case in point.
posted by Mitheral at 6:37 PM on June 26, 2009


In a 5/4 decision recently the Supreme Court has decided that people in prison do not have a right to test DNA evidence, even if they pay for the test themselves if their appeals were exhausted before DNA testing could have exonerated them. The court sided with Alaska And the Obama DOJ.

That's right, Obama apparently belives that innocent people should stay in jail if their appeals have expired, even if new evidence techniques turn up. He also Just issued an executive order claiming the right detain people indefinitely. Apparently it didn't appear that congress was going to grant the authority legislatively. So not only can people sit in jail after exhausting their appeals, they also get to sit in jail without getting a trial at all.

Change we can believe in!
posted by delmoi at 7:27 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


He also Just issued an executive order

That doesn't appear to be the case. The story indicates that such an order has been drafted, not that it has been issued. I'm hoping it stays that way.
posted by Justinian at 8:09 PM on June 26, 2009


Tx
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:22 PM on June 26, 2009


That doesn't appear to be the case. The story indicates that such an order has been drafted, not that it has been issued. I'm hoping it stays that way.

Ah, that's good.
posted by delmoi at 8:52 PM on June 26, 2009


Well in fairness, if I'd sent innocent people to a prison that was run like the U.S. runs our prisons, I don't think I'd want them out on the street anytime soon either.
"It's funny. On the outside, I was an honest man. Straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook."

Andy Dufresne
posted by Riki tiki at 10:01 PM on June 26, 2009


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