Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Monday, May 18, 2009

Troy Davis and the Ghost of Timothy Cole

There is no greater wrong that cannot be righted than to execute an innocent man. It is an irreversible act that cannot be undone. And, there is no greater torture than to let an innocent man rot in prison for the rest of his life.

By Eddie Griffin

A posthumous exoneration will not bring back Timothy Cole from an untimely grave. He had served honorably in the U.S. Army and was a student at Texas Tech University, according to House Resolution No. 62, filed by Representative Marc Veasey. But in the spring of 1985, he was snatched away and charged with the rape of Michele Mallin, a Texas Tech sophomore.

There was no physical evidence tying Cole to the crime and no fingerprints on the victim’s car, although the true rapist had driven it extensively. And besides, Tim Cole had a solid alibi: At the time of the rape, he was studying in his apartment while his brother was having a card party in the living room. Several young people testified at trial that Cole was in the apartment with them all evening.

Many years later, Mallin realized how she was primed by the district attorney to point the finger at the young black freshman. As for Cole's alibi, the DA characterized Cole's brother and friends as “brash, slick liars who would say anything to save their friend”. In the end, the jury believed Mallin, and Cole was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The true rapist, in the meantime, waited quietly until the statute of limitation expired. Then in 1995, Jerry Wayne Johnson wrote a letter to the district court in Lubbock in which he confessed to raping Mallin. He got no reply. So he wrote another letter asking for an attorney so that he could legally confess. Again, he was ignored.

In the end, Johnson's confession came too late. Cole was found unconscious in his cell on Dec. 2, 1999. He died before prison officials got him to the hospital. He was 39 years old.

Timothy Cole was a vet and a college student, not a street thug. Troy Davis was a former sports coach, not a street thug either. He was convicted of the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. Like Cole, Davis was convicted solely on witness testimony. Otherwise, there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and no weapon was ever recovered.

In the Cole case, the only eyewitness was the rape victim herself. In the Davis case, there were nine witnesses, none of who saw the actual murder. Since the time of their original testimony, seven have recanted or provided contradictory statements.

Tim Cole spent 13 years in prison, wishing, hoping, weeping, and looking for the day that the State of Texas would recognize its mistake. Four years after the true rapist confession, Cole was still in prison, still waiting... waiting for justice that never came.

Both cases should have sent up red flags of doubt. But there appears to be an insistence of southern justice to carry out a sentence even if there is reasonable doubt and no physical evidence. Justice here is not about guilt or innocence, but rather the supreme right of the state to execute whomever it wishes for whatever reason. Evidence does not matter anymore.


  1. Much obliged, Eddie for this heart wrenching post. There are, indeed many similarities in the Davis and Cole cases. Let us all hope and pray that humanity and smarter hearts and minds will prevail.

    My post will be up tomorrow morning and a link to this post will be included.


  2. Great Post!

    Thank you!

  3. Well done, Eddie. It's so important to draw these historical parallels. And there are many of them.

    Thanks very much for this.

  4. Your first paragraph in this post says it all. I hope we can get through to Gov. Perdue by prayers, emails, calls and letters.

    My post on this subject, Don't Kill Troy Davis, is up. Please come by and visit if you have time or inclination.

    peace, Villager

  5. Much obliged for participating in this important call to action. I hope you will accept a token of my appreciation left at the old SjP’s for you. Just learned that MSM is being denied access to Troy.

  6. Do you have any evidence that Troy was indeed a sports coach? The only early claimant of this, a Time reporter, has refused to back up the claim. Others have hinted that it was made up by the Davis family. The Savannah FOP athletic league could not confirm the validity of the statement.