Timothy Cole never lived to see his freedom or his good name restored, but on Friday a judge reversed his conviction for a rape he had sworn he never did.
A decade ago, Cole died in a Texas prison, having been convicted and sentenced to 25 years for the 1985 rape of 20-year-old Michele Mallin. His innocence was not confirmed by DNA until years after he died in 1999, when Jerry Johnson, the true rapist, confessed.
On Friday, the now 44-year-old Mallin confronted Johnson in court.
"What you did to me, you had no right to do," she vented. "You've got no right to do that to any woman. I am the one with the power now, buddy."
Mallin wasn’t the only angry one in Judge Charlie Baird’s courtroom.
"He'll never have the chance to have children," Cole's mother, Ruby Session, said. "I want you to know he was a fine young man."
Johnson, who has been in prison since 1985 on two convictions for aggravated sexual assault, was given a life sentence for raping a 15-year-old girl. A jury added 99 more years to his sentence for another rape. The statute of limitations has expired, so he cannot be charged in the Mallin case.
Johnson, who has lived with the guilt all these years, said Friday, "I am responsible. I say I am truly sorry."
On that fateful day, Mallin was walking to her car when Johnson, asking for jumper cables, forced himself into her car and raped her as he held a knife to her throat. When investigators presented Mallin with photos of possible suspects, she identified Cole. She then identified him in a police lineup.
"I was positive," she said. "I really thought it was him." But none of that jibed with the fact that Mallin told police that the rapist smoked the entire ordeal. Cole, a severe asthmatic, "was never a smoker," said his brother, Cory Session. "He took daily medications [for asthma] when he was younger."