Texas Governor Rick Perry:
An Inventory of Governor Rick Perry General Counsel Executive Clemency Files at the Texas State Archives, 1996-2015
The governor of Texas is the chief executive officer of the state, elected by the citizens every four years. The duties and responsibilities of the governor include serving as commander-in-chief of the state's military forces; convening special sessions of the legislature for specific purposes; delivering to the legislature at the beginning of each regular session a report on the condition of the state, an accounting of all public money under the governor's control, a recommended biennial budget, an estimate of the amounts of money required to be raised by taxation and any recommendations he deems necessary; signing or vetoing bills passed by the legislature; and executing the laws of the state. The governor can grant reprieves and commutations of punishment and pardons upon the recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and revoke conditional pardons. He appoints numerous state officials (with the consent of the senate), fills vacancies in state and district offices (except vacancies in the legislature), calls special elections to fill vacancies in the legislature, fills vacancies in the United States Senate until an election can be held and serves as ex officio member of several state boards.
The office of governor was first established by the Constitution of 1845 and superseded the office of president of the Republic of Texas. The position now exists under authority of Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution of 1876 and Texas Government Code, Chapter 401. To be elected governor, a person must be at least thirty years old, a United States citizen and a resident of Texas for at least five years preceding the election. In 1972, the term of office was extended from two to four years, effective in 1975. Since 1856 the governor has had the use of the Governor's Mansion.
In 2014 there were 277.4 full-time equivalent employees in the Office of the Governor. Nineteen divisions outside of the Executive Office assist the governor in carrying out his functions: Scheduling and Advance; Office of the First Lady; Administration; Appointments; Legislative; Communications; Budget, Planning, and Policy; General Counsel; Internal Audit; Constituent Communication; Criminal Justice; Economic Development and Tourist Development; Governor's Commission for Women; Office of Financial Accountability; Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities; Texas Film Commission; Texas Music Office; Texas Workforce Investment Council; and Office of State-Federal Relations.
The General Counsel position within the Texas Office of the Governor was created in October 1973 when the Executive Director of the Governor's Criminal Justice Division appointed an individual as General Counsel, to assist him in providing statute interpretations and in other matters relating to policies and procedures. Today the Office of the General Counsel is a separate division in the Governor's Office.
Duties of the General Counsel include providing statute interpretations; tracking inmates on death row as their cases move through the judicial process including all appeals to the governor for commutations or stays of execution; handling pardon requests sent to the governor; reviewing proposed settlements, land patents, grant requests, contracts, easements, and deeds for the governor; analyzing proposed legislation and regulations for validity and legal effect; assisting appointments staff in determining eligibility and other legal issues related to proposed appointments; handling extradition and requisition matters; coordinating ethics guidelines and training for the governor's office; advising the governor on federal programs administered by the state; coordinating the governor's criminal justice policy with the governor's Policy Director; and providing legal advice and handling litigation filed against the governor or the Governor's Office, in conjunction with actions of the Attorney General on the governor's behalf.
(Sources include: Guide to Texas State Agencies, 11th edition (2001); Office of the Governor, accessed on December 28, 2015; the contents of the records; and the Texas Governor's Office website during Governor Perry's term, accessed via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine on December 28, 2015.)
Rick Perry served as governor of Texas from December 20, 2000 to January 20, 2015.
James Richard "Rick" Perry was the 47th governor of Texas. He was born on March 4, 1950 in Haskell, Texas to Joseph Ray Perry and Amelia June (Holt) Perry. In 1972, he received a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University in animal science. Perry then served as a pilot with the United States Air Force from 1972 to 1977 and was discharged in 1977 with the rank of captain. Perry was elected to the Texas House of Representatives (District 64) as a Democrat in 1984 and served until 1991. He was named one of the 10 most effective lawmakers by the Dallas Morning News in 1989. In the same year, Perry changed his party allegiance, becoming a Republican. Perry left the House of Representatives to serve two terms as Commissioner of Agriculture, from 1991 to 1999. He was a member of the U.S. Trade Representative's Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee on International Trade; the executive committee, Southern U.S. Trade Association; and president of the Southern Association of Trade Departments of Agriculture (from 1992 to 1993). He was elected lieutenant governor in 1998, taking office in January of 1999. Perry became governor to complete the term of Governor George W. Bush who left the office in December 2000 to become president of the United States. Perry was first elected governor of Texas on November 5, 2002 and then reelected on November 7, 2006 and November 2, 2010.
As governor, Perry focused primarily on issues of economy, education, and security, especially along the Texas-Mexico border. He espoused fiscal conservatism, opposing a state income tax and focusing on job growth and business incentives throughout his governorship. As the longest serving Texas governor, Perry capitalized on the main power assigned to him by the Texas Constitution, appointing the majority of sitting members of every state board or commission. In the field of health care, Perry signed several bills governing abortion procedures and funding. Perry issued an executive order mandating that all Texas girls receive the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine on February 2, 2007. The order was overturned by the state legislature the following August.
On August 13, 2011, Perry announced he would be running for president in 2012. However, after a controversial campaign and a low showing in the Iowa caucuses, Perry dropped out of the presidential race on January 19, 2012. Perry later ran for president again, announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on June 4, 2015. He officially suspended his campaign on September 11, 2015.
On August 15, 2014, Perry was indicted by a grand jury on felony charges for abuse of power. The indictment specifically included two charges: abuse of official capacity (a first-degree felony) and coercion of a public servant (a third-degree felony). Perry was accused of coercing Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg (who had been convicted of drunk driving) to resign by threatening to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit, a group of state public corruption prosecutors. Perry was officially cleared of all charges in February 2016.
Perry married Anita Thigpen in 1982. They have two children, Griffin and Sydney.
(Sources include: Texas State Directory, 2014; the Texas Governor's Office website during Governor Perry's term at http://www.governor.state.tx.us, accessed on December 22, 2014; the Texas Governor's Office website during Governor Perry's term at https://wayback.archive-it.org/414/*/http:/www.governor.state.tx.us/homeland, dated November 17, 2014; Jeff Zeleny and Michael D. Shear, "Perry to End Bid for Presidency," New York Times, January 19, 2012, accessed on January 19, 2012; Theodore Schleifer, "Rick Perry drops out of 2016 presidential race - CNNPolitics.com," CNN, September 11, 2015, accessed on September 13, 2015; Benjy Sarlin, "Rick Perry indicted for abuse of power by grand jury," MSNBC, August 12, 2014, accessed on August 17, 2014; and Eugene Scott, "Court dismisses one criminal charge against Perry," CNN, July 24, 2015, accessed on July 26, 2015; and Carrie Dann, "Texas Court Dismisses Second Felony Charge Against Rick Perry", February 24, 2016, accessed on April 8, 2016.)
These are clemency applications presented to Texas Governor Rick Perry by his General Counsel's office for prisoners or convicted felons out on parole wishing a pardon, asking to have their sentence commuted, asking for an emergency medical reprieve, or asking for a pardon/commutation under Senate Concurrent Resolution 26 (passed by the 72nd Texas Legislature R.S. in 1991), which requires the governor to focus special consideration upon pardon applicants whose crime arguably was a response to severe spousal abuse. Types of records include individual offenders files, compiled charts and proclamations, and correspondence, dating 1996-2015. Also included are select records dating from Governor George W. Bush's term as governor. Records in this series are in both paper and electronic format and include one VHS videocassette.
Records for individual offenders include a pardon application tracking form; an executive summary from the General Counsel (GC) to Governor Perry stating a summary of the facts, evidence, proceedings, the Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) recommendation, the GC recommendation, and the governor's decision to deny or grant (initialed by the governor); or memos with facts about the applicant, excluding voting information. Also present may be notes about the case, pardon proclamations, correspondence of trial officials and attorneys with the governor and/or the BPP court records, BPP voting summaries, BPP case file materials, Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) inmate records, criminal histories, law enforcement records, press releases, clippings, and petitions for pardons based on innocence, such as DNA testing in old rape cases that exonerates the inmate. The petitions often include medical reports, crime summaries (which may include the name of a rape victim), victim impact statements, etc.; most of those materials are confidential as are TDCJ inmate files, letters to the BPP, BPP case file material, law enforcement records, and criminal histories. Not every individual offender file will include all of these documents, depending on the level of completeness. Individual offender files also vary in whether GC staff included the inmate number and date of pardon on folder titles for paper records. Files of prisoners denied pardons usually have only the pardon application tracking form, a voting memo, notes, and/or the executive summary from the GC to the governor. The majority of the electronic records related to individual offender files include drafts of the GC summary to the governor, individual proclamations, and correspondence to individuals regarding who to contact for clemency proceedings.
Compiled charts and proclamations include records created by GC's staff to track applications and determine final decisions. Voting memos are present for most cases and often list multiple cases in one document. These memos were sent to the governor and contain a minimum of facts about the case with the GC's recommendation (deny/grant). Usually multiple cases are filed together under the date the pardon was denied with all such cases being listed on the governor's voting memo.
Correspondence includes letters sent to the BPP, TDCJ, staff of the GC's office, the Attorney General's office, appeals courts, district attorneys, inmates or their attorneys, and family and friends of victims and of the inmates.
Corresponding electronic records are located at the end of the inventory for each subgroup. Formats of the original electronic files include word processing files (.doc, .docx), spreadsheets (.xls, .xlsx), databases (.mdb), and PDFs. Digital files presented for public use will generally be PDF for text documents or spreadsheets. Files in their original format are available on request; restrictions may apply. Electronic records described in this finding aid that are part of the Texas Digital Archive are indicated as such in the inventory. Restrictions on access to the content of records are applicable to physical and electronic records.
To prepare this inventory, the described materials were cursorily reviewed to delineate series, to confirm the accuracy of contents lists, to provide an estimate of dates covered, and to determine record types.
Restrictions on Access
Because of the possibility that portions of these records fall under Public Information Act exceptions including, but not limited to: social security numbers (Texas Government Code, Section 552.147); common law privacy (Texas Government Code, Section 552.101); names of recipients of social services (Texas Human Resources Code, Title 2, Section 12.003 and/or Texas Government Code, Section 552.101); certain email addresses (Texas Government Code, Section 552.137); driver's license numbers (Texas Government Code, Article 552.130); names of victims of sexual assaults (Texas Government Code, Section 552.101); criminal histories prepared by the Department of Public Safety, information about inmates incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice received from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and information created by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (Texas Government Code, Section 552.101 (information confidential by law, Texas Government Code, Section 508.313)); crime victim impact statement (Texas Government Code, Section 552.1325); and autopsy photographs (Texas Code of Criminal Procedures, Article 49.25 [989a]), an archivist must review these records before they can be accessed for research. The records may be requested for research under the provisions of the Public Information Act (Texas Government Code, Chapter 552).
The researcher may request an interview with an archivist or submit a request by mail (Texas State Library and Archives Commission, P. O. Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711), fax (512-463-5436), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or see our web page (https://www.tsl.texas.gov/agency/customer/pia.html). Include enough description and detail about the information requested to enable the archivist to accurately identify and locate the information. If our review reveals information that may be excepted by the Public Information Act, we are obligated to seek an open records decision from the Attorney General on whether the records can be released. The Public Information Act allows the Archives ten working days after receiving a request to make this determination. The Attorney General has 45 working days to render a decision. Alternately, the Archives can inform you of the nature of the potentially excepted information and if you agree, that information can be redacted or removed and you can access the remainder of the records.
Types of restricted information as listed above apply to paper and electronic records. Some electronic records will not be available through our portal due to such restrictions. Please see Archives staff for further information.
Physical materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Physical materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
To view the VHS videocassette, please contact Archives staff for access to playback equipment.
(Identify the item), Texas Governor Rick Perry General Counsel executive clemency files. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession numbers: 2015/067, 2015/117
Paper records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Office of the Governor on December 19, 2014 through March 2015. Electronic records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Office of the Governor on January 29, 2015.
Processed by Halley Grogan, December 2015
Other Finding Aids
Electronic records described in this finding aid are part of the Texas Digital Archive, available online at https://tsl.access.preservica.com/tda/tx-gov-perry/.
Detailed Description of the Records