Debate on Posthumous Pardons Continues

Sen. Rodney Ellis has requested an opinion from Attorney General Abbott

Rodney Ellis
Rodney Ellis (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Hoping to finally put the issue to rest, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, penned a letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on July 14 asking him to weigh in on whether Gov. Rick Perry has the power under law to issue a posthumous pardon. Ellis has been trying to help the family of Timothy Cole to secure a pardon from Perry.

Cole, who died in prison while serving time for a 1985 rape in Lubbock that he did not commit, was posthumously exonerated in Travis Co. District Court earlier this year, but his family has yet to receive an official pardon. Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger has claimed the law doesn't allow Perry to issue such a document. His hands are tied, she told the Chronicle earlier this month, by a 1965 A.G. opinion concluding that a pardon is not valid unless a person is alive to receive it.

Ellis and Cole's supporters say that's not the case: In his letter to Abbott, Ellis points out that Perry has already signed into law a bill (House Bill 1736, by Rep. Rafael Anchía) that would provide compensation for the family of posthumously pardoned exonerees. "While Governor Perry may have signed legislation that, at a minimum, implies a posthumous pardon is possible, he insists he cannot grant one without a constitutional amendment," Ellis wrote.

Ellis is now asking Abbott to determine whether Perry may "grant a legally effective posthumous pardon" either now or on Sept. 1, when HB 1736 takes effect, and whether the 1965 opinion of then-A.G. Waggoner Carr is "legally binding" on Perry.

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More posthumous pardon
Clearing the Path to Posthumous Pardon
Clearing the Path to Posthumous Pardon
A.G. opinion gives Timothy Cole supporters hope that Gov. Perry will issue a posthumous pardon

Jordan Smith, Jan. 15, 2010

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Timothy Cole, Rodney Ellis, Greg Abbott, Rick Perry, posthumous pardon, wrongful conviction

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