As you saw from the Senate’s pre-filed bills, there are a number of items being pushed by legislators that aren’t a part of the call for the special session. If one believes Governor Perry, it’s unlikely that anything else will get added, at least if the session is on track to finish up by the weekend as hoped. Nonetheless, here’s one thing that ought to be given strong consideration as an addition. Via press release from State Sen. Rodney Ellis’ office:
Senator Rodney Ellis, Representatives Ruth Jones McClendon and Marc Veasey joined Ruby and Cory Session, mother and brother of Tim Cole, for a press conference today urging Governor Perry to add a posthumous pardons constitutional amendment to the call of the special session. Tim Cole was posthumously exonerated in 2009 and today would have been his 49th birthday.
In September 1986, Tim Cole was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. He professed his innocence until he died in prison of an asthma attack in 1999. The real rapist, Jerry Johnson, attempted to confess to the rape beginning in 1995. In 2007, he wrote to Ruby Session, Tim Cole’s mother, confessing to the crime and not knowing that Tim had already passed away. In May 2008, DNA evidence revealed that Tim Cole was innocent and that Jerry Johnson was the true rapist.
This past regular session, the Texas House and Senate passed resolutions honoring Tim Cole, and in April, Judge Charles Baird exonerated Tim Cole in a “court of inquiry.” On May 27, Gov. Perry signed HB 1736, The Tim Cole Act, which increased compensation for the wrongfully convicted and family members of persons who were posthumously pardoned. Unfortunately, HJR 98, which would have authorized a constitutional amendment to give the governor the power to grant posthumous pardons, failed to pass the House.
Because HJR 98 did not pass, the governor has said he does not have the constitutional authority to grant Tim Cole a pardon.
“Nine states have granted posthumous pardons on at least ten separate occasions since 1977. President Clinton granted a posthumous pardon in 1999 to Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper, the first African-American commissioned officer in the United States Army. I don’t think we need to pass a constitutional amendment for Gov. Perry to pardon Tim Cole, but if the governor thinks we need it then he should add it to the special session call,” said Senator Ellis.
While it is unclear that a constitutional amendment is really needed, state legislators and the Session family have asked Gov. Perry to add a posthumous pardons constitutional amendment to the special session call so that he will grant Tim Cole a pardon for actual innocence.
“Since 1985 our family has been in a marathon race to clear the name of my brother Tim Cole. We are now in the final stretch toward the finish line of justice. To deny Tim Cole a pardon now is like firing the false start gun and saying try again. It is the Governor’s duty to take the baton of injustice off of our family and pardon Tim Cole,” said Cory Session.
Neither HJR98 nor its enabling legislation HB2596 ever made it onto the House calendar. Its Senate companion SJR11 did make it to the calendar, but fell victim to the chubfest, while its enabling legislation SB223 passed both chambers but was vetoed because SJR11 died in the House. It’s very likely the case that SJR11 would have passed the House had it ever been brought up, and as this seems like a fairly non-controversial item with a high do-good factor, you’d think it’d have a chance at a second chance. Up to the Governor, that’s all you can say. Grits has more.