The Houston Chronicle is a conservative newspaper. It always has been. Over the years, however, I’ve noticed that they’ve become a bit less biased in their reporting on criminal justice issues.
I don’t receive any of the major newspapers or news magazines but every so often someone around here will send me some. A guy passed me the August 7th ’09 edition of the Houston Chronicle and a particular article caught my eye, “What’s the Matter With Texas DAs,” by Rick Casey.
In this article Mr. Casey talks about a man named Timothy Cole who was wrongly accused of rape, subsequently convicted and sent to prison. (The article doesn’t say but I believe Cole was sentenced to Life.) He died in prison in 1999.
Four years before Cole’s death, a man named Larry Johnson wrote to the DA of the city (Lubbock) where the crime occurred, admitting to the rape. The letter was thrown away. Johnson wrote other officials without getting any results.
Two years ago, Cole’s family learned of Johnson’s efforts and contacted the Innocence Project. In February an Austin district court hearing proved that Johnson committed the rape and Timothy Cole died in prison an innocent man.The main evidence against Cole was a positive witness identification. In the article Rick Casey describes how the police manipulated the rape victim into making the I.D. When the Austin American Statesman asked the current Lubbock DA, Matthew Powell, who was to blame for the wrongful conviction of Timothy Cole, shockingly enough he said, “Where it went wrong is you had a victim who picked him out of a lineup.” Powell blames the victim.
When DA Powell was asked if he reviewed the case to discern if any lessons could be learned from such an injustice, he replied, “I didn’t think it was necessary. This is the greatest system in the world, but it’s a system built on people and people make mistakes.” Wow. Such Orwellian double-think boggles the mind.
It always amazed me how every time some horrible injustice within the criminal “justice” system comes to light, the police and DAs come up with non-sensical ad hoc justifications for the idea that the system is just fine. One almost has to wonder if DA Powell was in the throes of a schizophrenic episode when he declared our system “the greatest in the world.”
As Rick Casey states in the article, perhaps worst of all is that “Powell is very much in the mainstream of Texas Das.”