THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, EDITION1
BYLINE: CHRISTY HOPPE, Austin Bureau
San Antonio, TX
SAN ANTONIO - Gov. Rick Perry signed a posthumous pardon Monday for a Fort Worth native who was wrongly convicted of rape and died in state prison in 1999.
Tim Cole, 39, died of an asthma attack while serving a 25-year sentence in the 1985 aggravated sexual assault of a Texas Tech University student. DNA testing and another inmate's confession later proved his innocence.
"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," Perry said Monday.
"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."
Cole is the first person in Texas exonerated by DNA evidence posthumously.
A 2008 DNA test cleared Cole and implicated convicted rapist Jerry Wayne Johnson, who confessed in several letters to court officials that date back to 1995.
He cannot be prosecuted for the 1985 rape because the statute of limitations has expired.
A state court judge found conclusively last year that Cole did not commit the rape for which he was convicted.
Cole was a student in Lubbock at the time of the rape and had always maintained his innocence.
He came to the attention of police investigating a string of attacks against women after flirting with an undercover officer, and he was later identified by one of the victims.
His case became championed by the Innocence Project of Texas.
Most of Cole's family still lives in the Fort Worth area.
"I am so happy," Ruby Session, Cole's mother, said from her home in Burleson. "I just know that Tim is up there smiling."
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously to recommend the posthumous pardon for innocence.
Under state law, Perry had to wait for the board's recommendation before he could sign the pardon."There was overwhelming evidence. It was very clear that he was wrongly imprisoned," Perry said after a campaign event in San Antonio.
He called Session to tell her the news.
"It was really awesome," the governor said, adding that he and Session have formed a warm relationship over the past year or so.
Cole's family is eligible for state recompense, which amounts to just over $1 million based on his 13 years of wrongful incarceration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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