By Eddie Griffin
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Take the life of an innocent man, but do not take his good name. This is all that is left of Tim Cole. Texas Governor Rick Perry granted the deceased young man a posthumous pardon for a crime he did not commit. It was the first posthumous pardon in state history.
Tim Cole was an African-American college student and a veteran from Fort Worth. While attending Texas Tech University in 1985, he was wrongly accused of raping another college student, convicted, and given a 25-year sentence. On December 2, 1999, he died on the prison floor while having an asthma attack.
We have written his story, over and over again, to explain how that the criminal justice system in Texas rush to judgment, and thirst for vengeance, could send an innocent black man to prison. It has happened many, many times before.
Over the years, the Innocent Project championed the cause of Tim Cole. As his family pushed for justice, we leant our voices to the chorus. This was one of our kids, from our own home town, a young man who had potential and drive, only to have his due right to life, liberty, and pursuit cut short.
"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," declared Gov. 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 his family."
The state of Texas taketh away, but cannot give back. Nor can it purge its sin, except by making amends and provide for healing. The African-American community has been in mourning, because Tim Cole represented the brightest among our prospects to grow up and become somebody. Seeing the outcome of his life simply takes our collective breath away. Racially bias justice can terminate our child’s future.
Tim’s mother, Ruby Session, now 73, has waited a long time to see her son’s name cleared. In February 2009, after DNA testing, State District Judge Charles Baird of Austin exonerated Cole, saying the inmate had "suffered the greatest miscarriage of justice in our criminal justice system". Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles cleared the way for the governor to exercise the unprecedented powers of granting a posthumous pardon.
The governor called Mrs. Session on yesterday to give her the news. At the time, it was raining from heaven in Fort Worth, no doubt betwixt and between the tears of a brokenhearted mother. She declared the rain to be tears of joy.
But her joys are tempered by mourning and memory. As Tim’s brother, Cory Session, said in an interview, "To say the wheels of justice turn slow was an understatement when it came to Tim."
Corey is now policy director for the Innocence Project of Texas, the organization that spearheaded the movement to clear his brother’s name. The organization is also credited with the release of some 40 innocent men from the Texas Criminal Justice Department prison system.
"We will be doing this work as long as I'm able," said Mrs. Session in the interview. "We're on the forefront of a new day in the criminal justice system."
To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven... a time to be born and a time to die... a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted... a time to kill and a time to heal... a time to break down and a time to build up. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3)