Texas governor pardons man convicted of murdering Black Lives Matter protester

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday granted a full pardon to a former US Army sergeant and Uber driver who was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison for fatally shooting a Black Lives Matter protester in 2020.

Abbott, a Republican, in his pardon proclamation cited the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defence law, one of the strongest such measures in the US.

The clemency proclamation was issued shortly after the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole unanimously recommended a pardon for Daniel Perry and restoration of his firearm rights following an investigation that the board conducted at the governor’s request.

Perry, 37, was found guilty in April 2023 of murder in the death of 28-year-old Garrett Foster, a US Air Force veteran who was gunned down at a Black Lives Matter rally in Austin, the state capital, in July 2020.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks to attendees during the New York Republican State Committee Annual Gala in New York in April. Photo: Reuters

The demonstration came amid a storm of protests across the country against racial injustice and police brutality in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in May of that year.

Perry has insisted he was acting in self-defence when he shot Foster, asserting that he had no choice but to open fire with his handgun when Foster pointed the AK-47 he was legally carrying at Perry. Perry is white, as was Foster.

Perry was driving in Austin that night and had turned his Uber car onto a street where the demonstrators were marching, leading members of the crowd to believe they were in danger of being assaulted by his vehicle, according to media accounts of the incident.

At trial, the two sides presented conflicting accounts of whether Foster levelled his gun at Perry.

In his pardon proclamation, Abbott said the jury’s verdict in effect “nullified” the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defence law. The statute removes a person’s duty to retreat from an unprovoked threat of violence before using deadly force if that person has a right to be there.

Perry’s lawyer, Doug O’Connell, said the pardon “corrects the courtroom travesty” of his client’s conviction, adding that Perry was “thrilled and elated to be free”.

“Daniel Perry was imprisoned for 372 days and lost the military career he loved,” O’Connell said in the statement, quoted by Austin television station KXAN. “We intend to fight to get Daniel’s military service characterisation upgraded to an honourable discharge.”

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Black Lives Matter protests sweep the globe after police killing of George Floyd in US

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According to KXAN, Foster’s fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, shared her reaction in a joint statement with her mother, calling the pardon a “devastating blow” that “reopened deep wounds”.

Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza, a Democrat whose office brought the case against Perry, decried the pardon, saying that the parole board and the governor had “put their politics over justice and made a mockery of our legal system”.

The parole board gave no specific reason for its recommendation, but said its investigation “delved into the intricacies” of Perry’s case, including a review of police reports, court records and witness statements.

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