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Family Of Wrongfully Convicted Man Wants State Marker

By Arezow Doost, CBS 11 News
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The current headstone for wrongfully convicted Texan Tim Cole. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

The current headstone for wrongfully convicted Texan Tim Cole. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – “Timothy Cole,” reads younger brother Cory Session. “U.S. Army.”

At Mount Olivet Cemetery in Fort Worth, Session sits next to his brother’s grave. A simple granite slab marks the grave of Timothy Cole.

“He is one of a few that will make an impact on history,” explains Session.

Cole was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for the rape of a Texas Tech University student in 1985.

He turned down a plea offer that would have freed him on parole, but would have required him to admit he was guilty; something he vehemently denied.

In 1999, while still in prison, Cole died of an asthma attack. At that tie he had served 13 years of a 25-year sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.

“Ironically this year is the year he would be getting out of prison,” Session said sadly.

It was years after his death when a letter arrived at the Cole family home. It was written by Jerry Johnson, the man who confessed to the rape that Cole had served time for.

DNA later cleared Cole of the crime and then in 2010 Governor Rick Perry pardoned him.

“He’s the first posthumous pardon in Texas,” explains Session “He’s the first DNA exoneration posthumously in the U.S.” There’s even the “Tim Cole Act”, which increased compensation for people who are wrongly convicted in Texas.

Now Cole’s younger brother wants an official state historical marker, near his brother’s grave. “Right here you can see there are no graves here,” Session says, as he points about 30 feet away from Cole’s grave, near the street.

The Texas Historical Commission is reviewing the family’s application and a number of lawmakers are supporting it.

♦ Read the letter supporting the Tim Cole monument ♦

The only thing standing in the way is the cemetery. “There is really no justification why it should not happen,” says Session.

Jon Stephenson, the president of Greenwood-Mount Olivet Funeral, wouldn’t talk to CBS 11 News on camera, but said by phone, “We are certainly looking at options of placing a historical marker. We are not opposed to the marker. We just have to find the right location.”

As it stands, Stephenson says Coles grave is near a number of other plots and a marker would infringe on other gravesites.

The Cole family has been told they can build a mega-monument, like others at the cemetery, but they don’t see how it’s any different.

When asked what the historical marker would mean to the family Session quickly said, “It is the ultimate recognition that this man did no live, go to prison, and die in vain that’s what it will mean.”

Session says the state convicted his brother of a crime he didn’t commit. Now he says the least that can be done is provide a memorial as a reminder, so it never happens again.

“A historical marker will be somewhere in this state in Tim’s name. It should be here at Mount Olivet Cemetery.”

The aforementioned letter that was sent to the Cole family, the one confessing to the rape of the college student, came from Jerry Wayne Johnson. He has said he finally wrote the letter to Tim Cole, which his family eventually received, after he couldn’t get prosecutors to listen to him.

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