10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty October 24, 2009 Austin, Texas
The brother of Timothy Cole, the wrongfully convicted Fort Worth man who died in prison, is calling on state officials to convene a rarely used court of inquiry to investigate the case of Cameron Todd Willingham of Corsicana, who was convicted of setting a house fire that killed his three daughters and was executed in 2004.
A court of inquiry requested by Coles family posthumously exonerated Cole in 2006, seven years after his death from illness in prison. Cole was sentenced to a 25-year term for rape, but another man later confessed and DNA evidence substantiated Coles claims of innocence.
Cory Session of Fort Worth, Coles brother and policy director for the Innocence Project of Texas, proposed a court of inquiry in the Willingham case as opponents of the death penalty rallied Saturday at the state Capitol.
Several protesters held placards with Willinghams picture above a caption, "Innocent and Executed."
Willingham insisted on his innocence during his 12 years in prison and in a final statement before his execution. "They both died in prison; they both died saying they were innocent," Session said of his brother and Willingham.
Several fire experts have challenged the arson investigation that led to Willinghams execution. Gov. Rick Perry, who denied a late-hour request to postpone the execution, and other officials say the evidence proved conclusively that Willingham killed his children.
Nine appeals courts upheld the conviction. "Four courts said Tim Cole was not wrongfully convicted," Session said. "I guess some courts are wrong sometime."
Session said Willinghams family would have to request the inquiry. The New York-based Innocence Project has said a court of inquiry would be premature before the Texas Forensic Science Commission completes an inquiry into the arson investigation.
On Feb. 5th and 6th, 2009 in a Travis County courtroom a stones throw away from the Capitol, the Timothy Cole innocence case was heard. This case is unique in the annals of Texas legal history. It was the first time in Texas a person has been formally cleared of a crime through DNA after their death. It was also one of the first times in Texas that a crime victim has actively joined in an effort to exonerate someone falsely convicted of a crime. On April 7, 2009 Judge Baird released his final order in Tim Coles case clearing Tims name once and for all and establishing Tims innocence.