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Judge Posthumously Clears Man Convicted Of Rape

A Texas judge has exonerated a man who died in prison after serving 13 years for a rape he did not commit.

Timothy Cole was accused of raping a Texas Tech sophomore when he was a student in 1985. His conviction was based on the testimony of the rape victim, but there was no physical evidence tying him to the crime.

After the statute of limitations had run out, Jerry Wayne Johnson, who was serving 99 years in prison for two other rapes, tried to confess to the crime. But the criminal justice system in Lubbock ignored his confessions, and Cole died in prison of asthma complications in 1999.

DNA testing last year linked Johnson to the crime, and on Friday he testified that he was the rapist.

State District Judge Charles Baird posthumously exonerated Cole and expunged his record. The victim, Michele Mallin, apologized to Cole's family for mistakenly identifying Cole as her attacker. She lashed out at Johnson in court, yelling that he had robbed Cole of his life.

It was the first posthumous DNA exoneration in state history.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Wade Goodwyn is an NPR National Desk Correspondent covering Texas and the surrounding states.