Senator Ellis Press Release

For Immediate Release
July 14, 2009
Contact: Tina Tran, (512) 463-0113

Senator Rodney Ellis requests opinion on Governor's power to grant posthumous pardons from Attorney General

(AUSTIN) — Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today requested an opinion from Attorney General Greg Abbott on the Governor's authority to grant posthumous pardons and other related issues. Last week the Texas Legislative Council issued a legal memorandum that provides more evidence that the Texas Governor has the power to issue posthumous pardons. Senator Ellis requested the memo to determine if a constitutional amendment was needed for the governor to grant a posthumous pardon.

The issue has arisen out of the Timothy Cole case, who 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. In May 2008, DNA evidence revealed that Tim Cole was innocent and that a man named Jerry Johnson was the true rapist.

In May, Gov. Perry signed The Tim Cole Act, which increased compensation for the wrongfully convicted and family members of persons who were posthumously pardoned. Unfortunately, a resolution which would have authorized a constitutional amendment to give the governor the power to grant posthumous pardons, failed to pass the House this past session.

Because the resolution did not pass, the governor has said he does not have the constitutional authority to grant Tim Cole a pardon.

ATTACHMENT: Senator Ellis' letter requesting an opinion on a Governor's power to grant posthumous pardons (PDF)