Normally in the U.S., statues are erected of politicians and historical figures. Rarely is a statue built in remembrance of how the justice system got it wrong and sent an innocent man to prison. In Texas, however, a newly unveiled statue depicts a man who spent over a decade in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
The bronze statue depicts Tim Cole, a black man who spent thirteen years in prison after having been wrongfully convicted of rαpe after the victim picked him out of a lineup.
Later, the lineup was proven to be prejudicial since it made Cole’s image stand out to the victim.
Republican Governor Rick Perry was among those present at the unveiling of the statue, which was fitting considering that Perry granted Cole a posthumous pardon.
Cole, who died in prison, was a Texas Tech student when in 1985 he was convicted of rαpe and sentenced to 25 years behind bars. Cole’s attorneys were able to get the conviction overturned.
“This statue will serve as a reminder that justice must be tempered with wisdom,” Perry said. “And we must all stand vigilante against injustice, wherever it may be found.”
Cole’s wrongful conviction signaled the beginning of reforms in Texas with the Tim Cole Act. The law awards exonerated inmates $80,000 for each year they were in prison. Texas is also high on the list of states with the most exonerated inmates. The state mandated better DNA collection procedures in the aftermath of Cole’s wrongful conviction.
“There are certain aspects of Texas’ criminal justice reform that’s surprisingly ahead of the rest of the country,” said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, according to USA Today.
Cole died in prison of a heart attαck.