LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Monday pardoned a man who died in prison after serving more than 13 years for a wrongful rape conviction.
Perry granted the state's first posthumous pardon to Tim Cole in Austin after receiving a recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Cole was convicted of a 1985 rape of a Texas Tech University student in Lubbock. The Army veteran was cleared by DNA evidence in 2008, nine years after he died in prison of complications from asthma at age 39.
"I am so happy," Ruby Session, Cole's mother, said from her Burleson home. "I just know that Tim is up there smiling."
Perry called Session personally Monday after signing her son's pardon.
"We have a rainy, rainy day," Session said she told Perry. "And I said, 'Those are his tears of joy."'
In a statement, Perry said he had been looking forward to the day he could call Session and tell her he'd pardoned her son.
"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," Perry said.
The family had sought a pardon from Perry, who was sympathetic but maintained he could not legally grant a posthumous pardon. The state attorney general clarified the law in January, clearing the way for Monday's pardon.
While Cole's family was happy to receive the news from Perry, there also was sorrow.
"We do feel very sad that he's not here," said Cory Session, Cole's youngest brother. "We knew somehow, some way it was going to happen that his name would be cleared. We just didn't know that it would come with the tragedy of his death. We didn't know it would take this long."
Cole is also the first Texas man to be posthumously cleared by DNA testing. The 2008 test cleared Cole and implicated convicted rapist Jerry Wayne Johnson, who confessed in several letters to court officials that date back to 1995.
Johnson cannot be prosecuted for the rape that sent Cole to prison because the statute of limitations has expired.
Last year, state district Judge Charles Baird pronounced Cole innocent during an exoneration hearing. Baird said mistaken witness identification, questionable suspect lineups and a faulty police investigation led to Cole's wrongful conviction.