Updated: Texas Man Cleared by DNA Gets Posthumous Degree

Dec 11, 2014
Originally published on March 10, 2015 10:45 am

Update March 10, 2015 9:45 a.m. Texas Tech University's Board of Regents voted Friday to award an honorary degree to Timothy Cole. The Associated Press first reported about this vote on Monday, after the university released a statement on the regents' vote.

Original story Dec. 11, 2014: Timothy Cole was the first person to receive a Texas posthumous pardon for a crime he didn’t commit. That happened in 2010. Now, a Texas resident wants Texas Tech University to grant Cole an honorary degree.

Fred B. McKinley has long been interested in the life of Timothy Cole. Cole is the former Texas Tech University student who was wrongfully convicted for rape almost three decades ago. He died in prison before DNA evidence proved his innocence in 2009. Gov. Rick Perry granted Cole the state's first posthumous pardon in 2010.

McKinley, who’s written a book about Cole titled "A Plea for Justice: The Timothy Cole Story," is circulating a petition to grant Cole a posthumous degree from Texas Tech. McKinley’s online petition has more than 12,000 signatures.

"It’s really not a matter of whether they were wrong back in 1985 when all of this happened, it’s just a matter of them correcting it and doing the right thing now," McKinley says, referring to when Texas Tech asked Cole to leave the university after his arrest on rape charges.

In the past, the university has written to McKinley that Cole had not completed the required coursework to receive a posthumous degree.

In a recent statement, Texas Tech said Timothy Cole and his family “continue to have our deepest sympathies. The university has a process in place for the issuance of honorary degrees and we will consistently follow that process."

Meanwhile, State Rep. Ruth McClendon, D-San Antonio, has authored a bill for the 2015 legislative session that would set up a commission to review wrongful convictions in Texas. She authored a similar bill that died last session.

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