Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
November 15, 2004
Contact: Brandon Dudley, (713) 236-0306

Senator Ellis Files Legislation to Ban Execution of the Mentally Retarded and to Compensate the Wrongfully Incarcerated

(Austin)// -- Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) filed legislation today to ban the execution of mentally retarded offenders and to assist individuals who have been wrongfully incarcerated.

Senate Bill 85 will make it against the law to execute mentally retarded individuals. Though recent poll numbers show that Texans support the death penalty, a majority of Texans are opposed to executing the mentally retarded. “I am a supporter of the death penalty in the appropriate circumstances,” said Senator Ellis, “ but you can be tough on crime and still be sensitive to the fact that executing individuals who are mentally disabled does not further the cause of justice."

The Bill requires a pre-trial hearing to determine whether an offender is mentally retarded. Senator Ellis attempted to pass similar legislation in 1999, 2001, and 2003. Currently, several states and the federal government have passed laws prohibiting the execution of people with mental retardation.

Senate Bill 86 will raise the amount of compensation for the wrongfully convicted from $25,000 to $50,000 for each year they were incarcerated, with a cap of $1 million. SB 86 also does away with the current requirement that forces an individual who has been wrongfully convicted to choose between the administrative yearly compensation or the ability to pursue a civil suit against the state. “You would think that after these individuals have been forced to suffer in prison for crime they did not commit, the state would be willing to spend at least as much on trying to help them put their lives back together as they spend on locking them up.”

Senate Bill 87 will assist the wrongfully incarcerated by removing the requirement of a letter of innocence from the District Attorney as a condition of compensation. This requirement has precluded individuals such as Josiah Sutton from receiving compensation despite having been cleared of the crimes for which they were convicted.