Sen. Ellis Praises Pardon-Calls For Criminal Justice Reform

 Hand-Delivered Pardon Brings Justice at Last for Tim Cole and His Family

(Fort Worth, TX)//Governor Perry presented Timothy Cole’s pardon to Tim’s mother, Ruby Session, Tim’s brother, Cory Session, and other members of the Session family today.  Tim’s pardon comes more than ten years after he died in a Texas prison for a rape he did not commit. Tim was officially exonerated in April 2009 by Judge Charles Baird.

“Tim’s mother, Ruby, has said many times that she would believe Tim was pardoned when she saw that pardon in her hand. That day has finally come for her today with the governor hand-delivering the pardon to her. It is unfortunate that it came ten years too late, but nonetheless, Tim’s name is officially cleared, his reputation has been restored, and Ruby Session can sleep peacefully tonight knowing that for a fact,” said Sen. Rodney Ellis.  

“Like in the bible in the book of Timothy, Tim Cole fought the fight, he finished the race and he kept the faith. Tim has victory at last!” said Cory Session, Cole’s brother.

The pardon comes after the Attorney General issued an opinion in January 2010 affirming that the governor has the power to issue posthumous pardons. Senator Rodney Ellis requested the opinion on July 14 in the hopes of giving the Governor latitude to issue a pardon of innocence for Timothy Cole. Sen. Ellis also tried to pass a constitutional amendment specifically granting the governor such authority, but it failed to pass the 2009 legislature.

“While this is the first posthumous pardon in Texas, the legislature and the governor need to make criminal justice reform a priority next session if we are going to make sure there are no more Tim Coles in the future. The quality of indigent defense needs to be improved. The Texas Forensic Science Commission needs to be re-examined so the integrity of investigations like the Cameron Todd Willingham case are protected. We need to look at the reliability of forensic evidence being admitted into our courts, especially eyewitness identification evidence. Tim’s wrongful conviction was due to the use of faulty eyewitness identification procedures, the most frequent cause of wrongful convictions in Texas and the rest of the country. Every law enforcement agency in Texas should have written eyewitness identification procedures based on best practices, but unfortunately only 12 percent have any written procedures at all,” noted Sen. Ellis.

Sen. Ellis authored a number of measures last legislative session to improve criminal justice practices so that evidence was more accurate and wrongful convictions less likely. Those bills included legislation to improve eyewitness identification procedures; a bill to require custodial interrogations in felony cases to be recorded; and legislation to broaden defendants’ access to post-conviction DNA testing. All three of these bills passed the Senate but unfortunately died in the House.

Sen. Ellis also authored or sponsored legislation bearing Tim Cole’s name that was enacted in 2009, including legislation to establish the Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, and the Tim Cole Act, which increased compensation for person’s wrongfully convicted.

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