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Monday, February 9, 2009

Over 33 People in Texas, Most of Them Black, One Dead, Have Been Exonerated by Modern DNA Testing... After Serving 10-27 Years in Jail

The Letter From the Innocence Project of Texas is why the Innocence Project is so Awesome. The article, published just a few days earlier from NPR is just another example of why the entire Prison Industrial Complex criminalizes not only the people of color wrongly accused, but also everyone involved.

Love for the people,
-T. Love

[Late edit: Marcella also has a very well worded response on how it effects women involved as well, even when the accused is innocent.]


Innocence Project of Tx Secures First Posthumous DNA Exoneration in Texas for Timothy Cole, Feb 2009

by The Innocence Project of Texas

The Innocence Project of Texas is pleased to announce that yesterday afternoon Judge Charlie Baird formally cleared Timothy Cole's name and exonerated him of a sexual assault he was convicted of committing back in 1986.

Innocence Project of...
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This event marks the first posthumous DNA exoneration in Texas history, as Timothy Cole passed away in 1999 while incarcerated for the crime.

Our organization is honored to have represented the Cole family in their quest to reclaim the name of their eldest son and brother. Timothy Cole, who served as a role model for his entire family, was a man of extraordinary integrity. And yesterday, just a few minutes after 5:00pm, Judge Baird recognized that "his reputation must be restored." The Judge also elaborated by stating that this is the saddest case he has ever seen during his 30 years of experience.

We here at IPOT would like to thank Judge Baird for his decision to hold a hearing in this case. Without the support of his court, one that is truly dedicated to seeing justice done, we would not have been able to get Timothy the exoneration that he has always deserved.

If you would like to make a donation to the Innocence Project of Texas in Timothy Cole's name, please visit

If we all work together, we CAN make a positive change in the criminal justice system.

Thank you,

Natalie Roetzel
Executive Director
Innocence Project of Texas

Family Of Man Cleared By DNA Still Seeks Justice

February 5, 2009, The family of a man convicted of rape will be in an Austin, Texas, courtroom Thursday to try to clear his name — joined by the woman whose testimony helped imprison him.

In 1985, Timothy Cole was a student in Lubbock when he was arrested and accused of being the Texas Tech rapist. A string of coeds had been raped, and the young African-American man from Fort Worth, who'd never been in trouble with the law before, was convicted largely on the eyewitness account of one rape victim.

Nearly two decades later, a jailhouse confession by another man prompted new DNA testing in the case. Those tests proved that Cole was innocent, that he should be exonerated and released. But in this case, that proved impossible.

It was Sunday night, March 24, 1985, and Texas Tech sophomore Michele Mallin had just returned to her dorm room after a weekend visiting her relatives. It was getting late when she remembered that she needed to move her car to a legal parking spot.

"I thought, well, I'll just run over there and do that real quick — it was almost 10 o'clock. Then I'll come back and get ready for bed," Mallin says.

As she finished moving her car, a black man appeared and told her he was having car problems. Did she have any jumper cables?

"Then all of a sudden, he just opened the door of my car and forced himself in and then he put a knife to my throat at the same time," says Mallin, who is white. "He pushed me over into the passenger seat and started to drive away and stared telling me,' Stop screaming,' because I was screaming my head off, 'or I'm going to kill you.'"

Mallin feared for her life as the man drove her out of Lubbock to a vacant lot. But she was strong, athletic, a virgin — and determined to stay that way.

"I just couldn't fight him," she says. "As much as I tried, I couldn't. He was just stronger than me physically."

Her attacker had one very distinguishing characteristic. "He smoked the whole time," she says she told authorities "from the get-go."

A chain-smoking, African-American rapist who used a knife. That was the man the Lubbock police should have been looking for. But it was a nonsmoking, asthmatic black man they eventually settled on.

No Physical Evidence

Cole had enrolled at Texas Tech for the 1985 spring semester. One of his friends worked at a Mr. Gatti's pizza parlor near campus, and Cole would often wait for him there. The restaurant was just a few blocks from where Mallin was raped. The police took a Polaroid photograph of Cole and showed it to her.

"Yeah, I was pretty confident, I never really wavered," Mallin says. "I really honestly believed that they found the right guy and I had picked out the right guy." She says she assumed the police had other physical evidence.

But there were holes in the prosecution's case. No physical evidence tied Cole to the crime. Although the rapist drove the car extensively, Cole's fingerprints were not found in the vehicle. Cole also 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.

The district attorney attacked Cole's witnesses 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.

As he sobbed in his jail cell crying out that he was innocent, another inmate, Jerry Wayne Johnson, was listening.

Johnson was in jail over charges that he had raped two women. One victim was a 15-year-old white girl he brazenly snatched right out of her high school. Johnson had held a knife to her throat as he drove her to a vacant lot outside of Lubbock. He also was a heavy smoker.

Johnson had been following Cole's trial closely, because he was the man who raped Mallin. In an interview with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Johnson describes listening to Cole's anguished cries that night.

"I just looked over and was just kinda looking at him. I didn't say nothing to him," he says.

The idea that it was Johnson who raped Mallin seemed to occur to everyone except Lubbock law enforcement. His name was brought up repeatedly during Cole's trial, but it had no effect on the jury.

A Confession That Came Too Late

After Cole was convicted, the real rapist quietly waited for the statute of limitations to run out. Then, in 1995, 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.

Johnson eventually wrote to the former Lubbock district attorney who prosecuted the case, Jim Bob Darnell, and asked for his help. There was only silence in reply. By 2007, Johnson, who was still in prison, tracked down what he thought was Cole's address. He assumed Cole was out on parole and mailed his confession.

Cole's mother, Ruby Session, opened the letter. "My son read it. I couldn't sit down, I couldn't eat. I couldn't walk. I wanted to go outside. I wanted to stay inside. I was beside myself," she says.

In the end, Johnson's confession came too late. In prison, Cole had struggled to get adequate medical treatment for his asthma. He was found unconscious in his cell twice and revived in hospital emergency rooms. Then on Dec. 2, 1999, Cole was again found unconscious. He died before the prison got him to the hospital. He was 39 years old.

With Johnson's letter in hand, Cole's family went to the media. In response, the Lubbock D.A.'s office announced it would run modern DNA tests. When the results came back, it was Jerry Wayne Johnson's DNA on the swabs in the rape kit, not Timothy Cole's.

The Innocence Project of Texas sought relief in court to clear Cole's name, but no judge in Lubbock would grant them a hearing. Darnell, the former district attorney who later became a local family court judge, did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. However, he told the Lubbock paper that he regretted what happened to Cole.

'I'll Always Feel Guilty'

It took a state judge in Austin to review the facts and grant a hearing for relief, which begins Thursday. Although Lubbock law enforcement has declined to testify, Mallin will. She plans to take the stand and ask that Cole be exonerated in death.

"I still feel guilty. I'll always feel guilty about it because, I mean, my testimony sent a man to prison and he ended up dying there," Mallin says. "Even though I know I did everything I could in my heart of hearts to do the right thing, still that happened. But I know the police are responsible and the D.A., too, because they knew things I didn't know."

So far this decade, 34 men in Texas, most of them black, have been exonerated by modern DNA testing. They spent 10, 15, 20, even 27 years wrongly imprisoned for rape before being released. No such remedy is available for Cole, a bright, likeable young man who got along well with everyone and who, in the spring of 1985, had his whole life ahead of him.

End of Article.


Below is an Excerpt From The Group Critical resistance. I have attended one of their awesome workshops at the Life After Capitalism conference in New York and it was awesome.

Love for the people,



What is the Prison Industrial Complex?

What is the Prison Industrial Complex?

The prison industrial complex (PIC) is a complicated system situated at the intersection of governmental and private interests that uses prisons as a solution to social, political, and economic problems. The PIC depends upon the oppressive systems of racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia. It includes human rights violations, the death penalty, industry and labor issues, policing, courts, media, community powerlessness, the imprisonment of political prisoners, and the elimination of dissent.

How the PIC Works

To fully describe the PIC, we have to look at the big picture of how it functions. For example, the prison construction boom can be linked to, among other factors, the huge increase in the number of people sentenced to prison terms with the onset of the war on drugs, the repression of radical movements by people of color for self-determination, and the anti-imperialist struggles of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The "war on drugs" and the national and local efforts to destroy radical political movements led to increasing police presence in communities of color and poor communities, higher arrest rates, and longer prison sentences.

This boom is also fueled by dramatic and racist reporting about "crime," "delinquency," and "rebellion," creating a culture of fear in which it continues to be acceptable and desirable to many people to lock people (primarily people of color, youth, and poor people) in cages for longer and longer in the interest of "public safety." The way the many parts of the PIC interact is exactly what makes it so powerful and destructive. In order to fight this system, we have to see it for all that it is and recognize what drives and shapes it.

Fighting the PIC
Fighting the PIC means fighting the mainstream ideas of public safety and challenging the idea that police, prisons, and the court system make people who are not in power safer. At the same time, we must create alternative ideas of security based on the safety of the people most affected by the PIC.

The United States currently imprisons around 2 million people. About 6.5 million people are presently under some form of supervision within the criminal justice system. Women represent the fastest rising prison population. Since 1980, the number of women imprisoned in the U.S. has risen by almost 400 percent. Racism continues to be a major factor in the United States, illustrated by policies and programs that sustain white supremacy. Racism, as it is used through criminal laws that target people of color, is essential to the PIC, not accidental.

Prisons Are Not an Answer to Crime
The wrongdoings we call crime do not exist in the same ways everywhere and are not "human nature". What is considered a crime is determined by the societies we live in. Because we have seen over and over again that locking more people in cages does not reduce crime, we must understand the power relationships that lead society to lock up only certain people. Since prisons do not stop problems like poverty, racism, or drug addiction, we cannot expect them to stop crime. We need to understand that we have no option but to fight and continue to fight until all of the different parts of the PIC that continue to put our survival in danger are eliminated.

The Movement Against the PIC

The movement against the PIC runs the risk of being shaped by easy victories or simplified struggles that do not recognize and fight the whole system. We must go beyond false separations, such as "non-violent" versus "violent" that place prisoners in opposition to each other. One important place to begin to fight the PIC is by pushing the movement to a more complete race, class, and gender analysis. We cannot allow ourselves to do short-term work that undermines our long-term vision and goals, or rely on the same systems of oppression and domination that sustain and drive the PIC to influence "mainstream" voters and decision makers. In order to do this work, we must continue to create spaces for people with different points of view to have honest discussions and disagreements about directions the movement against the PIC should take.

What We Are For

Since we are so frequently asked what we are "for" rather than "against," the struggle against prisons, police, repression, punishment, and the criminalization of entire communities must display a clear vision that a world without the PIC is possible. One way to define and shape what we are for is through creating a culture of resistance, or a culture and society that fill all the different parts of our lives with alternatives to the culture of imprisonment. A new culture must nurture and sustain our struggle and provide space for political education, conversation and debate about what we are doing and what we need to do in the future.

In order to figure out why people get locked up and under what circumstances, we need to look at what are sometimes called "root causes." This strategy requires looking at the competing priorities of the systems in which we live and understanding why they work well for some and horribly for others. The systems of race, class, gender, and sexuality, for instance, are commonly understood as privileging some people's needs and ideals over others. By exploring why and how those systems work for some and not for others, we can begin to develop a better understanding of how to include concrete steps in our work that deal with the negative effects of these systems on the people who are most often put in cages.

To oppose the PIC, activists must work on both theoretical and practical levels. We cannot only engage in single-issue struggles, because all the issues intersect. How can we best create social change in an era of globalization? The voices of today's radical activists, particularly activists of color, must be at the front of the fight against the PIC. Those who are most affected by the system must be the ones planning its end.

Organizing against the PIC is as much about building something as it is about fighting what is destroying our communities. Our organizing is also an ongoing effort to create alternatives, not only to imprisonment, but to the culture of punishment we've become so used to.

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