Last September, the state’s top political leaders put aside their partisan bickering and campaign rhetoric and gathered in Lubbock for a rare show of unity behind a most noble cause.
Democrats and Republicans, including the governor and the candidates who were running to replace him, had come together to unveil a statue in honor of Tim Cole, the young Fort Worth man and Texas Tech student who had been wrongly convicted of rape in 1985.
Cole was the first man in Texas exonerated posthumously through DNA testing, which proved he didn’t commit the crime.
Gov. Rick Perry came to Fort Worth in 2010 to personally present a pardon for Cole to his mother and other family members. Unfortunately, Cole died in prison in 1999 before his innocence was proved.
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During that statue dedication ceremony, across from the Tech law school, the state officials gave powerfully moving statements about how Cole must never be forgotten, and how they had been forced to re-examine their own thinking about some issues in the criminal justice system.
Then-Sen. Dan Patrick, a candidate for lieutenant governor, was one of those who said he had been touched by Cole’s story and was committed in trying to make sure nothing like that ever happened in Texas again.
Patrick won his election, and now, as lieutenant governor, he is president of the state Senate with the power to make sure that certain bills make it to the floor for debate and others die by simply being ignored.
Tim Cole has been honored by having successful legislation bearing his name pass in the Legislature, and on Friday Tech awarded him a posthumous honorary law degree.
But while that was going on, another bill that would create the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, designed to review all exoneration cases to find out how such egregious mistakes could occur, was languishing in the Senate awaiting the lieutenant governor to assign it to a committee.
The Texas House overwhelmingly passed the legislation May 1 on a vote of 134 to 6 and sent it to the Senate.
As the legislative session winds down to its June 1 close, many supporters were wondering why it appeared the Senate leadership was trying to kill this legislation, which had been opposed by members of the district and county attorneys’ organization.
As early as Monday morning, people were contacting the lieutenant governor’s office pleading for action.
Maybe it worked, because after 18 days the legislative calendar showed Monday afternoon that the bill had been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee.
But that doesn’t mean it will become law.
Patrick should show the leadership that he promised that September afternoon in Lubbock to make sure that House Bill 48, bearing the name of Timothy Cole, passes in the Senate and is sent to Gov. Greg Abbott for signing.
We don’t want any more examples of innocent people spending time in prison for crimes they did not commit.