A memorial statue was unveiled today in Lubbock honoring the life of a young man who was wrongfully convicted of a crime and subsequently died in prison while awaiting justice.

Many major political figures in Texas were present, including Governor Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott and State Senator Wendy Davis.

But the event was not part of the campaign for the November General Election. Instead, it was seen by many as a chance for Texas as a whole to honor justice.

“This isn’t a political issue, this is a Texas issue. This was an American issue; this is an issue about us as human beings," Gov. Rick Perry said. "We came together, all of us, with a common goal: to clear the good name of Tim Cole.”

Tim Cole, a military veteran and Texas Tech student, was wrongfully convicted of the rape of a fellow student in 1985. Cole fought the conviction, never admitting guilt. In 1999, he died in prison due to an asthma-related illness.

Tim Cole Memorial Statue
Photo: Justin Massoud/KFYO

One year after the statute of limitations on the crime expired, Jerry Wayne Johnson confessed from prison to the rape of then-Texas Tech junior Michelle Mallin. Cole was arrested after Mallin mistakenly chose him out of a lineup.

Cole was eventually cleared of the crime in 2010. He was the first posthumous pardon in Texas through DNA evidence after the Innocence Project of Texas fought for DNA testing in 2008.

“I believe we have a responsibility to make sure that Tim Cole’s life serves as an educating moment because it gives us the power to change things,” said State Senator Wendy Davis. “It gives us the security of knowing that our sons and daughters can live in a state that is not as presumptuous as it once was.”

The Glasheen, Valles and Inderman law firm funded the $250,000, 13-foot bronze Tim Cole statue which stands at 19th and University Avenue in Lubbock. The statue was sculpted by local artist Eddie Dixon.

Cole’s visage looks westward toward the Texas Tech University Law School; a symbolic choice by Dixon to demonstrate Cole’s search for justice.

More From Lonestar 99-5 FM