Updated on 11 May 2015.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (home page) is the body responsible for making executive clemency recommendations to the governor. While the Board has responsibility over all criminal convictions in the state, it is the board's responsibility over death penalty cases that is of interest here.
The Texas Board of Parons and Paroles was created by the Texas legislature in 1935 to curtail the governor's authority to grant pardons after Governor Miriam "Ma" Ferguson was widely rumored to have sold pardons for cash. The Board was not created, as some have speculated, as a device designed to limit the governor's ability to intervene in executions; it was created to limit a governor's ability to personally profit from the criminal justice process.
Executive clemency decisions in death penalty cases come in three forms: pardon, commutation of sentence, and reprieve. By Board rules, certain actions require the input of the applicant's three trial officials: the sentencing judge, district attorney, and sherrif.
In a pardon, the prisoner is released from prison (if there are no other convictions) and his citizenship rights are partially or fully restored. This is similar to when an appeals court overturns a conviction, with two differences: the state cannot appeal an executive clemency decision, and the defendant will, in most cases, still show a criminal conviction on his record. Only an "innocence pardon" removes the crime from the individual's record. Innocence pardons are rare and are usually considered only with either the approval of at least two of the applicant's trial officials, or a finding of innocence by a court of law.
In sentence commutations, the board reduces the penalty assessed by the court. In death penalty cases, this usually means changing the death sentence to a sentence of life in prison. Commutations of sentence must be supported by a majority of the applicant's trial officials.
The board may also recommend a reprieve, in which case the execution may not be carried out during the specified time limit. After the reprieve time is expired, the state may execute the prisoner, unless further court or executive clemency action has been taken.
Board decisions are made by majority vote. In some cases, prisoners make more than one request. For example, some prisoners have requested pardon, commutation of sentence, and reprieve. In such cases, the board takes separate votes on each action.
Clemency recommendations passed by a majority vote go to the governor. If the governor accepts the board's recommendation, clemency is granted. If the governor rejects the board's recommendation, clemency is not granted. If the board recommends a reprieve, the governor may grant reprieve for a term not longer than the board recommends.
Note that the governor can only grant clemency upon a favorable recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Without such a recommendation, the governor cannot do anything except grant a one-time, 30-day stay of execution.
For instances where executive clemency was granted, see our page, Executive Clemency Actions in Death Penalty Cases.
Since 2004, the Board of Pardons and Paroles has had 7 seats. There were previously 18 seats. The Texas Legislature reorganized the Board of Pardons and Paroles in 2003.
The membership of the board as of 21 February 2018 is as follows:
|David G. Gutierrez||Gatesville||2009 (Perry)|
Chair, 2015 (Abbott)
|James W. LaFavers||Amarillo||2011 (Perry), 2017 (Abbott)||2023|
|Brian Long||Palestine||2017 (Abbott)||2023|
|Federico Rangel||Huntsville||2012 (Perry)|
|Ed Robertson||Austin||2015 (Abbott)||2021|
|Fred Solis||San Antonio||2015 (Abbott)||2021|
|Cynthia Tauss||Angleton||2013 (Perry)||2019|
|Michelle Skyrmre||Palestine||2011 (Perry)||2017|
|Juanita M. Gonzalez||Round Rock||1997 (Bush)|
|Rissie Owens||Huntsville||1997 (Bush)|
|Corinth Davis||Sugarland||2006 (Perry)||2013|
|Thomas A. Leeper||Huntsville||2009 (Perry)||2013|
|Charles Aycock||Farwell||2004 (Perry)|
|Jackie DeNoyelles||Flint||2005 (Perry)||2011|
|Jose Aliseda||Beeville||2004 (Perry)||2009|
|LaFayette Collins||Huntsville||1999 (Bush)|
|Paddy Burwell||Westhoff||1999 (Bush)||2004|
|Roy A. 'Tony' Garcia||Palestine||2001 (Perry)||2004|
|Daniel R. 'Dan' Guerra||Austin||2001 (Perry)||2004|
|James Paul Kiel Jr.||Tyler||1999 (Bush)||2004|
|Filiberto 'Bert' Reyna||Waco||1999 (Bush)||2004|
|Brendolyn Rogers-Johnson||Duncanville||1995 (Bush)|
|Lynn Ruzicka||Houston||2001 (Perry)||2004|
|Lucinda 'Cindy' Simons||Hereford||1999 (Bush)||2004|
|Charles C. 'Chuck' Speier||Huntsville||2002 (Perry)||2004|
|James E. 'Jim' Bush||Huntsville||1995 (Bush)|
|Lynn F. Brown||Lorena||1997 (Bush)||2003|
|Linda Garcia||LaPorte||1999 (Bush)|
|Gerald Garrett||Austin||1999 (Bush, Chairman)|
2001 (Perry, Chairman)
|Alvin Shaw||Austin||1997 (Bush)||2003|
|Charles A. Shipman||Witchita Falls||1997 (Bush)||2003|
|Wayne Scott||Huntsville||2001 (Perry)||2002|
|Daniel Lang||Houston||1995 (Bush)||2001|
|Thomas W. Moss||Amarillo||1995 (Bush)||2001|
|Cynthia Tauss||League City||1995 (Bush)||2001|
|Sandie Walker||Bryan||1997 (Bush)||1999|
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