POSTED: Monday, April 2, 2012 - 6:24pm
UPDATED: Monday, April 2, 2012 - 6:29pm
by Michael Hall
A couple of Fridays ago, Kerry Max Cook, who was released from Texas’ death row in 1997 after two decades, went to pick up his 11-year-old son, Kerry Justice, from his North Dallas school. Class was just letting out. As Cook approached a group of children and their parents, a little girl squirmed out of her mother’s arms and ran toward him. “Mr. Kerry!” she called. He laughed as she jumped into his arms. “Haleigh!” he shouted, and began tickling her. “She adores Mr. Kerry,” her mother said.
The same jolly scene followed Cook as he walked around the small campus — children calling out to him, laughing, jumping into his arms. Vicki Johnston, the school’s director, looked on, smiling. “Kerry’s such a big part of the school,” she said. “He’s like a pied piper to the kids.” Asked about his past, Johnston simply said, “We know him. We know what kind of man he is.”
Unfortunately for Cook, 15 years after his release, the state of Texas still does not share Johnston’s view. Though he is widely recognized as one of the most famous exonerees in America, Cook is not legally an exoneree. In fact, in the eyes of the state, he is still a killer — convicted of the 1977 rape and murder of Linda Jo Edwards...