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Texas Governor Pardons Daniel Perry Over 2020 Black Lives Matter Protest Shooting

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday pardoned a man convicted of fatally shooting a protester during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in the summer of 2020, fulfilling a promise he made last year under pressure from conservatives.

The decision immediately followed a recommendation for clemency from the state Board of Pardons and Parole, whose members are appointed by the governor. Lawyers for the man, Daniel S. Perry, argued that he acted in self-defense against the protester, who was carrying an AK-47-style rifle.

Mr. Perry was sentenced to 25 years in prison during an emotional hearing last year in which prosecutors presented evidence of racist online comments he made and said psychology experts l ‘basically a loaded weapon’. As the pardon board reviewed the case, attorneys for Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza met with the board to argue against a pardon.

Under Texas law, a recommendation from the board is necessary before the governor can issue a pardon.

“Texas has one of the strongest self-defense laws that cannot be overturned by a progressive jury or prosecutor,” Mr. Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement Thursday. “I thank the board for its thorough investigation and agree with its recommendation for clemency.”

The protester’s family lawyer, Garrett Foster, a 28-year-old former mechanic in the U.S. Air Force, criticized the governor’s decision.

“The governor of the great state of Texas has subverted the rule of law,” said lawyer Quentin Brogdon, who represented Mr. Foster’s mother, Sheila, in a civil action related to her son’s killing that she stopped prosecuting after Mr. Perry’s conviction. “It is fair to ask whether the governor is doing this based on the merits of the case or based on political considerations.”

The case sits at the intersection of some of the most controversial issues facing the country, including protests over the killing of George Floyd, the proliferation of military-style rifles in the hands of civilians, and the legal rights of those who choose to present themselves. on the ground and open fire, rather than retreating, when they feel threatened.

Mr. Perry was an active-duty sergeant in the U.S. Army on the night of July 25, 2020, while working as an Uber driver in downtown Austin and heading into a crowd of protesters.

That’s where a group of people, including Mr. Foster, approached Mr. Perry’s car. Mr. Foster — who, like Mr. Perry, was white — wore a bandana over his face and carried an AK-47-style rifle attached to a strap in front of him. Mr. Perry’s lawyers said Mr. Foster began pointing his gun and that’s when Mr. Perry opened fire.

During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence before the shooting of Mr. Perry’s animosity toward protesters on social media.

The jury viewed video of the July 25 confrontation during its deliberations, according to an alternate juror, and considered the self-defense argument. But jurors ultimately voted to convict.

Mr. Perry’s lawyers had requested a new trial, saying at least one juror had inappropriately introduced information into the deliberations. But the judge in the case, Cliff Brown of Travis County’s 147th Criminal Court, ruled those actions did not call into question the verdict.

The governor used his official pardon proclamation to attack the prosecutor, writing that Mr. Garza had not sought justice but had instead “exhibited unethical abuse and bias of his office in prosecuting Daniel Scott Perry.”

“District Attorney Garza ordered the lead detective investigating Daniel Scott Perry to withhold exculpatory evidence from the grand jury considering whether to file an indictment,” Mr. Abbott wrote.

An Austin police detective who worked on the case accused Mr. Garza of hiding evidence that could have helped Mr. Perry.

Mr. Garza, a Democrat, is currently facing proceedings that could remove him from office under a new law signed by the governor aimed at limiting the discretion of local prosecutors.

In a statement, Mr. Garza said the governor and the pardon board had “made a mockery of our legal system” and “should be ashamed of themselves.”

“They sent a message to Garrett Foster’s family, his partner and our community that his life does not matter,” Garza wrote. “They sent the message that the service of the Travis County community members who served on the grand jury and trial jury does not matter.”

Doug O’Connell, Mr. Perry’s lawyer, thanked the governor and the pardon board. “He’s thrilled and thrilled to be free,” Mr. O’Connell said of his client. “He wishes this tragic event never happened and wishes he never had to defend himself against Mr. Foster’s illegal actions.” He said Mr Perry had lost his military career but would seek to have his discharge upgraded to “honorable”.

The governor’s pardon of Mr. Perry contrasted with his position after the pardon board recommended a posthumous pardon for Mr. Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis in 2020 and was convicted of a minor case of drugs while living in Houston. The governor took no action in Mr. Floyd’s case and months later the board reversed its recommendation.

Mr. Abbott, in explaining Mr. Perry’s pardon, said Mr. Perry had feared for his life after his car was “immediately surrounded by aggressive protesters who rushed to obstruct, beat, hammer, crush and kicking his vehicle” and that Mr. Foster “brandished a Kalashnikov-type rifle in a low firing position.”

The pardon left Mr Foster’s loved ones in shock.

“I loved Garrett Foster. I thought we were going to grow old together,” said Whitney Mitchell, who called him her husband although they were not legally married. “I am heartbroken by this anarchy. Governor Abbott has shown that, for him, only certain lives matter. It has made us all less safe.

The pardon comes as Texas finds itself in the midst of a new round of public protests, this time on college campuses, in opposition to Israel’s actions in the Gaza war.

Mr. Abbott forcefully denounced pro-Palestinian protesters who attempted to seize a state flagship university campus in Austin and sent state police officers, some on horseback, to proceed to arrests. But there have been no deaths or serious injuries linked to the latest protests.

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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