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Tim Cole Pardon Granted by Gov Rick Perry: Will Lessons be Learned?

Of course, the big news today when you’re talking Governor Rick Perry is that he’s just won the Republican Primary without the need of a runoff.   Guess that makes sense. 

Finally, Tim Cole is Pardoned

However, on Monday something else happened.  Governor Perry signed the pardon of Timothy Cole, the first person in the State of Texas to be cleared of wrongdoing by DNA evidence after his death. 

If you follow this blog, then you’re aware that there was some problem getting here: arguments were made that the Governor had no legal right to grant this pardon, the Attorney General said so, and there was a major brouhaha before justice was done. 

What Will We Learn from the Tim Cole Tragedy?

Now that the pardon has indeed been granted, and the family of Tim Cole has achieved victory in his vindication, there are still questions that should be asked — lessons to be learned from the life of Tim Cole. 

Here are a couple:

1.  At Grits for Breakfast, there is much discussion on how many more Tim Coles are there?  How many more false convictions are on the books right now, with innocent men and women behind bars standing firm on their innocence?

It’s a good question.  With crime labs in the chaotic state they are these days, it’s debatable whether or not DNA testing can be trusted in cases pending before the court.  Who is going to undertake the process of vindication through DNA testing of folk who are already behind bars?  The Innocence Project of Texas does this — but their resources are limited, and they have to choose their cases accordingly. 

Tim Cole Lesson No. 1:  There’s a way to get innocent folk out of prison through DNA testing, but we’ve got to figure out how to do it, and who is going to pay for it – and how to secure their release through appeal or pardon once the test results are back.  Part of the expense is the judicial process AFTER the test reveals their innocence.  It’s not just a matter of taking a lab report to the prison and getting someone released. 

2.  At the Burnt Orange Report, discussion is had over Tim Cole’s case showing us once again how eyewitness identifications simply cannot be trusted as reliable evidence.  In Cole’s case, a young woman traumatized by rape picked Tim Cole in a photo lineup.  She was wrong.  The man who raped her later admitted the crime, and many years later, that victim came face to face with her perpetrator – all as part of the efforts to exonerate and free Tim Cole. 

Tim Cole Lesson 2:  Eyewitness testimony simply should not be trusted as evidence in a criminal case.  This should be absolutely paramount when it is the key piece of evidence that the State is using to put someone behind bars for any period of time, much less placing them on Death Row.  Human beings do not have trustworthy recollections of events, this has been proven time and time again.  When will the judicial system finally recognize just how flawed finger-pointing is?  Who knows.  Until they do, criminal defense attorneys must fight, and fight hard, against the probative value of any “eyewitness” — and perhaps pointing the finger at the Tim Cole case may help place this “evidence” in its proper perspective.

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