The 12 jurors who served in the Daniel Perry murder trial took an oath to be fair and impartial. They promised to carefully consider the evidence presented before them, eight days of it, much of it very detailed.
They spent 16 hours over two days coming to a conclusion: that Perry, an active-duty Army sergeant, was guilty of murdering Black Lives Matter protester Garrett Foster in the summer of 2020.
Now, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has promised to replace their decision with his own. Abbott tweeted less than 24 hours after the jury’s verdict that he had requested a recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that he pardon Perry, a legal necessity before he takes that action. “I have made that request and instructed the Board to expedite its review,” the governor announced. “I look forward to approving the Board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk.”
I am working as swiftly as Texas law allows regarding the pardon of Sgt. Perry. pic.twitter.com/HydwdzneMU
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 8, 2023
Sources tell the Chronicle that the coordinator of Perry’s prosecution, Travis County District Attorney José Garza, will soon respond to the governor’s threat.
Perry was convicted for his actions on the evening of July 25, 2020, when he drove his car into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters at the corner of Fourth Street and Congress Avenue. Garrett Foster, a 28-year-old Air Force veteran, approached the driver’s side door that night, carrying an AK-47 across his chest, and challenged Perry. The window opened and Perry shot Foster five times. Perry surrendered to Austin police minutes later, claiming he’d shot in self-defense after Foster raised the barrel of his gun. Austin Police Department officers questioned him and let him go. Garza presented the case to a Travis County grand jury shortly after taking office in 2021. The grand jury indicted Perry for murder and assault.
At the ensuing trial, prosecutors made a strong case that Perry had acted with premeditation, presenting social media posts and personal texts between him and a pair of friends that showed he had fantasized about killing BLM protesters, even going so far as to predict how he could get away with it – by claiming self-defense. Legal scholars speculate that this evidence was central to the jury’s guilty verdict. Still, the verdict came as a shock to those following the case.
Republicans, in particular, were caught off guard. Attorney General Ken Paxton – who for years has had felony indictments for securities fraud hanging over his head – referred to Garza as a “[George] Soros-backed DA in Travis County [who] cares more about the radical agenda of dangerous Antifa and BLM mobs than justice.” Paxton wrote that Garza “must be stopped!” (The DA responded by counseling Paxton to concentrate on his own legal problems.) Matt Rinaldi, the chair of the Texas Republican Party, wrote, “This case should have never been prosecuted. A pardon by the governor is in order.” Tucker Carlson, appearing on TV two hours after the verdict was announced, told his Fox News audience that he’d invited the governor to his show to discuss the issue but that Abbott had declined. “So that is Greg Abbott’s position,” Carlson said, baiting him. “There is no right of self-defense in Texas.”
Abbott’s threat to pardon Perry could be the first of many. In the spring of 2022, after a Travis County grand jury indicted 19 Austin police officers for assault for injuring BLM protesters, Abbott threatened to “exonerate” any officers who were prosecuted. Many of these cases are expected to begin filtering into county courtrooms in the coming year. Observers say a string of police officer pardons could endear Abbott to the most radical elements of his party, who have, with the rise of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, forgotten he ever existed. There is speculation the gambit might even resuscitate his moribund presidential aspirations.
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