Recent protests recall 1986 wrongful conviction of Timothy Cole - FOX34 Lubbock

Recent protests recall 1986 wrongful conviction of Timothy Cole

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LUBBOCK, Texas -


"Tim was a guy who did everything right. I mean, that could happen to anybody and unfortunately because of the color of Tim's skin, it made it just so much more likely that he would be a victim of police misconduct," Kevin Glasheen said.

35 years ago, Timothy Cole was a Texas Tech student and veteran, falsely accused of raping a fellow student, a white woman.

Today, his towering statue at 19th and University continues to overlook the hundreds of protestors echoing the name of George Floyd.

"We wanted it to be a place where people could honor Tim Cole's memory and could understand the history of what some people have gone through. It makes it so much more personal for the students at Texas Tech to know that this was a fellow student and this was somebody who was just snatched out of their community," Glasheen said.

Both Glasheen and Jeff Blackburn represented Tim Cole's family in the years following his death.

Blackburn, a founder of The Innocence Project in Texas, argues police knew Cole was innocent, but his case went to trial anyways.

He was sentenced to 25 years, and served 23, before dying in prison in 1999.  Blackburn says both Cole and Floyd suffered a similar fate. 

"They're both about crooked cops. about bad cops. And that's all there is to it," Blackburn said. "So, they killed him [Cole] more slowly and I can tell you, what people have to understand is this: this is not an exception, George Floyd is not an exception, it is the rule."

The Cole case, unlike Floyd's, flew under the radar at the time. He was eventually exonerated a decade after his death, thanks to DNA evidence and a credible confession by a man named Jerry Johnson.

The following year he was pardoned by Former Governor Rick Perry.

"It not only hurts them and their families but it tears up our whole community. It wastes a tremendous pool of talent in our society, and it wastes a tremendous amount of resources to have this militarized police system and a system that incarcerates people at the highest rate in the world," Glasheen said.

The case led to legislation that increased compensation for families of exonerated criminals and prevention of wrongful convictions. 

But more monumental change is needed, Blackburn argues.

"What we need is, on the local level, citizens review of police departments. We need to have a state civil rights law, that says you can go to state court and bring these cases. And on a federal level, we need to abolish the concept and law of qualified immunity," Blackburn explained.

For now, Cole's memory lives on at the corner of 19th and University, a powerful backdrop to the outcry of the Black Lives Matter movement in Lubbock. 

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