Saturday, February 07, 2009

sad news article

Today I read a news article that was terribly sad:

A Texas district court judge Friday reversed the conviction of a man who died in prison nearly a decade ago, almost two decades into a prison sentence for a rape he swore he did not commit, CNN affiliate KXAN reported.

... Then a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Mallin was walking to her car, intending to move it to another parking lot, when a man approached her asking about jumper cables, she said. In a matter of seconds, he put her in a choke hold and held a knife to her neck. He forced himself into her car and drove her to the outskirts of town, where he raped her.

... Cole, like Mallin, was a student at Texas Tech. He had finished two years of college previously and was returning to school after spending two years in the Army, his brother said.

But his dreams of getting married and having children never materialized. He was arrested and charged with Mallin's rape, declining a plea bargain offer that would have put him on probation. A jury convicted him and imposed a 25-year sentence.

That night, "he hugged my mother and he said, 'Mother, why these people lie on me, why they do this to me?'" Cole's brother Reggie Session recounted for the Avalanche-Journal, which published a three-part series on the case in June.

"He said, 'They know I ain't done nothing to that girl. I don't even know that girl. Why they do this to me, mother?' ... He cried in my mother's arms on the floor."

Reading the article, it seems there were many hints indicating against it being Cole. He had asthma and never smoked, but the rapist was a heavy smoker. Cole's lawyer even suspected who the real rapist was, and tried to make a case for it.

Now everyone -- Cole's family, the victim, even the real rapist -- is working together to clear Cole's name. I'm sure it's cathartic, and should be done, but it's so little consolation.


John K. Lin said...

This is indeed a sad news story, but nothing new (unfortunately).

sanjuro said...

That just shows how fucked up the American judicial system is.

Anonymous said...


How fucked up is "the system"? This is a fucked up result, no question. But the system? What aspect of "the system" do you mean?

I don't know the facts of the case beyond what was mentioned in the post, but it appears the jury was at fault. In Texas (and the South, generally), jurors are all too ready to convinct black defendants, particularly when the charge is rape.

So most specifically, you can blame the 12 men and women who found guilt. They're fucked up. Less specifically, you can even blame rampant racism in the Lubbock, or Texas, or the American South, or the United States, or even the racism inherent in humanity.

Or if you don't think it's racism (... and beyond generalities, perhaps there's no facts we have to support such an inference), you can blame the education system that produced jurors who couldn't properly consider the evidence or the instructions of law.

But to blame the legal system is going a bit far. Criminal defendants in the United States enjoy several advantages over, say, defendants in a U.S. civil suit, or criminal defendants abroad. The idea behind these advantages is to help prevent wrongful convictions such as this.

Of course, such wrongful convictions happen. They happen because of the jury. However, there's no clearly-better alternative to the jury system. You can have judges be the fact-finders, if you like. Now the authority is concentrated in one person who, in some sense, becomes a "professional juror." And if that guy has any biases, then loads of cases become tainted, not just one.

John K. Lin said...

60 Minutes tonight had a 3-part "happy" story on:

Flight 1549: A Routine Takeoff Turns Ugly
Captain Sullenberger Recalls The Bird Strike And The Tense And Crucial Minutes That Followed

Video of the interviews with Sullenberger & crew are remarkable.

Anonymous said...

For a 60 minutes story from '06 re: basically similar circumstances - but with a happier ending (well...after 26 years in prison) see - (-- I love your blog & your recent comments on the Kite Runner are hilarious)

Niniane said...

re: Anonymous.

The "60 minutes" story is really intense. I suppose the lawyers are bound by ethics, but it seems such a terrible waste.

I did like the article ending:

"'And the truth shall set you free,' Simon remarked. "

hmf said...

Hi Niniane -- thanks for reading my comment & checking out the 60 Minutes piece. FWIW - I strongly disagree w/ both attorneys. First, I find it very difficult to believe either would have faced sanctions from the state disciplinary board by coming forward. But even if so, is their legal career more important than someone's life - letting that person wither away in jail (not to mention the consequences for his family)? To me, there was no ethical dilemma whatsoever. Your post re Kobe spotlights such a recurrent problem -- the victim is frequently a previous victim of abuse (physical, psychological, sexual) growing up - & thus is more likely to be in a situation where (or initially attracted to) someone (who) would commit sexual assault/rape. I enjoy how your blog combines serious, thought provoking topics with funny, interesting observations & vignettes.

Anonymous said...

I was once acused of stealing a wallet.

Unbelievable nightmare.

From the police to the accuser all treated me like dirt for something that I did not do.

It was the worst time in my life.

Luckily my family and employer were behind me.

To be convicted of serious crime like rape that you did not do.


hmf said...

Hey Niniane, - as always, I thoroughly enjoy reading your entries & hope you're having an excellent experience in Germany. On this topic - I thought you might be interested in two more links. (1) A very recent 60 minutes piece: "Lesley Stahl reports on flaws in eyewitness testimony that are at the heart of the DNA exonerations of falsely convicted people like Ronald Cotton, who has now forgiven his accuser, Jennifer Thompson." - very compelling & (2) an especially troubling account (Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker of how Roland Burris (the "senator" appointed by Blagojevich (for an utterly hilarious Daily Show take - see starting @ 3:25)) was perfectly willing, as IL AG, to override his staff & proceed w/ the execution of a totally innocent defendant - who's life was spared thanks only to a heroic appeal led by a NU law professor.

hmf284 said...

NYT columnist Bob Herbert today has an op-ed about a troubling recent case where Supreme Court, for now, has granted (a last second) reprieve

Anonymous said...

This is a more common occurrence and not just in the U.S. I help to administer a web site for a wrongfully convicted innocent

It is good to see folks showing interest and an intelligent interesting post is always good to read