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Texas governor pardons man convicted of murdering Black Lives Matter protester

A balding man with a beard and wearing a striped jail top enters court.
Daniel Perry enters the courtroom at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center in Austin, Texas, last year.
(Jay Janner / Associated Press)
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a full pardon Thursday for a former U.S. Army sergeant convicted of murder for fatally shooting an armed demonstrator in 2020 during nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice.

Abbott announced the pardon soon after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles announced its unanimous recommendation that Daniel Perry be pardoned and have his firearms rights restored.

Perry had been in state prison on a 25-year sentence since his conviction in 2023 in the killing of Garrett Foster. He was released shortly after the pardon, a prison spokeswoman said.

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Perry, who is white, was working as a ride-share driver when his car approached a demonstration in Austin. Prosecutors said he could have driven away from the confrontation with Foster, a white Air Force veteran who witnesses said never raised his gun.

A jury convicted Perry of murder, but Abbott called it a case of self-defense.

“Texas has one of the strongest ‘stand your ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive district attorney,” Abbott said.

Gov. Greg Abbott seeks to pardon an Army sergeant in the 2020 shooting death of an armed protester during demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice.

April 8, 2023

A Republican in his third term, Abbott has typically issued pardons only for minor offenses, and he notably avoided a posthumous pardon recommendation for George Floyd for a 2004 drug arrest in Houston. It was Floyd’s murder by a white police officer in Minneapolis in 2020 that set off national demonstrations.

Abbott ordered the board to review Perry’s case shortly after the trial, and said he would sign a pardon if recommended. Under Texas law, the governor cannot issue a pardon without a recommendation from the board, which the governor appoints.

Travis County Dist. Atty. Jose Garza criticized the pardon as a “mockery of our legal system.”

“The board and the governor have put their politics over justice,” Garza said. “They should be ashamed of themselves. Their actions are contrary to the law and demonstrate that there are two classes of people in this state where some lives matter and some lives do not.”

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Sgt. Daniel Perry is sentenced to 25 years in prison for fatally shooting an armed Black Lives Matter protester in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott’s vow to pardon him is up in the air.

May 10, 2023

Abbott’s demand for a review of Perry’s case followed pressure from former Fox News star Tucker Carlson, who on national television had urged the governor to intervene after Perry was convicted in April 2023.

Before sentencing, the court unsealed dozens of pages of text messages and social media posts that showed Perry had hostile views toward Black Lives Matter protests. A few days after protests erupted, he texted an acquaintance: “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.”

Perry’s defense attorneys argued that Foster raised a rifle and that Perry had no choice but to shoot. Perry did not take the witness stand.

“The events of this case have always been tragic and, unfortunately, Garrett Foster lost his life,” attorney Clinton Broden said. “Mr. Perry and his family thank the Board of Pardons and Parole for its careful review of the case and are grateful that the State of Texas has strong laws to allow its citizens to protect themselves.”

Foster’s girlfriend, Whitney Mitchell, was with him when he was killed. She called the pardon an act of “lawlessness.”

“With this pardon, the governor has desecrated the life of a murdered Texan and U.S. Air Force veteran and impugned that jury’s just verdict,” Mitchell said. “He has declared that Texans who hold political views that are different from his and different from those in power can be killed in this state with impunity.”

At the trial, a forensic psychologist testified that he believed Perry has post-traumatic stress disorder from his deployment to Afghanistan and from being bullied as a child. At the time of the shooting, Perry was stationed at Ft. Cavazos, then called Ft. Hood, about 70 miles north of Austin.

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Vertuno writes for the Associated Press.

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