AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — We reported earlier this week on the legacy of Jeff Blackburn following his death on February 12th. During his time as an attorney, Blackburn founded the Innocence Project and played a major role in the Tulia drug bust. Another memorable moment in Blackburn’s career was the Timothy Cole case in Lubbock.
In the fall of 1986 Texas Tech University student, Tim Cole was charged following an incident in March 1985, where a female TTU student was raped. Cole was sentenced to 25 years in prison and would later die while serving his time in 1999 at the age of 39. The case was picked up by Jeff Balckburn in 2007 and led Cole to be the first person exonerated posthumously by DNA in American history.
“He took on the hard cases. He took on the cases that nobody wanted to do, or they didn’t think anyone was there. He delved into all cases and found the injustices and that were commonplace across this country. But very few lawyers even think about taking on,” said brother of Tim Cole, Cory Session.
Another prisoner Jerry Wayne Johnson who was already serving life sentences for other crimes, confessed to the case Cole had been convicted of. Cole’s name was finally cleared after 20 years. Session said Cole is just one story like so many others who were wrongfully convicted.
“One of the things that we found in Texas is that there’s an addiction to convictions around the state to put people away and that had been going on for decades. Well, a lot of those convictions were erroneous, and they never should have received prison time they’ve been should have been charged,” said Session.
Session added that Blackburn not only left an impact on his family, but on everyone he interacted with.
“Oh, everyone who Jeff worked with, everyone he taught at Texas Tech is a better person a more enlightened person, about the realities of the criminal justice system, not only in this state, but across this nation,” Session said. “The unfairness, where it can be improved, is to not just go with, you know, the status quo. Jeff taught everyone, try it and keep going and fight it.”
Session added that during Blackburn’s career, he continued to showcase the injustice in the criminal justice system. And has pushed two of Session’s children to study criminal justice so they can continue the legacy of Jeff Blackburn. Session’s sister is also currently a Civil attorney because of the impact Blackburn left behind.
Session said the best way to carry on Blackburn’s legacy is to continue to fight for a better criminal justice system for everyone.