Thursday, December 30, 2010

Perry granted 3.5% of total clemency requests

Just to put a final coda on Grits' recent series regarding gubernatorial clemency under Rick Perry, I got back the results of an open records request to discover a piece of data that was inconsistently (and apparently incorrectly) reported in the last decade of annual reports from the Board of Pardons and Paroles: How many total clemency applications does the agency receive each year? The reports gave clear data about the number of cases considered each year by the board, but not always the larger number of clemency requests including those the board didn't hear.

According to the supposedly apples-to-apples numbers sent to me by the Clemency division at the Board of Pardons and Paroles, during Rick Perry's tenure the BPP never received more than 756 requests for clemency (in 2001), with just 574 requests in 2009. I've added the new data to the Rick Perry clemency chart I've been slowly constructing here on Grits over the last couple of years:

The part I still don't understand - and I've asked the BPP for clarification - is what the numbers from their annual reports were referencing. The BPP reported processing 1,061 clemency requests in 2009 in its annual report, 1,555 the year before that, and on up to much higher numbers from FY 2001-03 that clearly weren't methodologically similar to reporting in the later years. Asking for clarification, I was given these new numbers that don't correspond to anything in the annual reports at all that I can see. Go figure. I'll let you know when I get an answer back on that one. (See the update below.)

In the meantime, we can now give a statistic that wasn't possible to state with certainty before (and which would have been underestimated, ironically, based on faulty public reporting): Texans requesting clemency (of all types) during Rick Perry's tenure as Governor had a 3.53% of having it granted. If one gets a favorable board recommendation, though, the odds go up considerably to 34.55%. Still, Gov. Perry failed to grant clemency nearly 2/3 of the time the board recommended it.

It seems like that took a lot of work to get to a number that should have been readily available. Of all the data the Board of Pardons and Paroles should get right in its reporting, how many clemency requests they receive each year seemingly ought to be right up there near the top.

UPDATE: Soon after hitting "Publish" on this post, I got back a partial explanation regarding total-request data from the BPP annual report: Clemency Director Maria Ramirez wrote to say that the higher figures represented the number of "board member votes" for clemency, so if 18 board members voted that'd be 18 votes for each approved clemency request. This appears to mostly, but not completely, explain the discrepancies back to 2004. For '01 to '03, though, the differences remain a mystery. That was a really obscure way to report the data. The above Grits chart appears to be the first time the actual numbers for total clemency requests have been published publicly.

See related Grits posts:

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