Texas governor seeks pardon for convicted killer
By Ed Lavandera, Ashley Killough, Paradise Afshar and Michelle Watson, CNN
(CNN) — The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is launching an investigation upon the Republican governor's request for an expedited probe and pardon recommendation for a US Army sergeant convicted Friday of killing a protester at a Black Lives Matter rally in 2020.
"The board will be commencing that investigation immediately" and will report to the governor with recommendations when it's done, board spokesperson Rachel Alderete said Monday. The board didn't immediately say how long the inquiry could take or whether an appeal process is required ahead of a recommendation.
Daniel Perry, the White Army sergeant and ride-share driver, was indicted on a charge of murder in 2021 for the fatal shooting of Garrett Foster, who is also White, at a Black Lives Matter protest in Austin, Texas. He was also charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and deadly conduct for his behavior at the protest.
A Travis County jury on Friday convicted Perry, 35, of murder. The jury found him not guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and the deadly conduct charge is still pending with the county attorney's office.
Gov. Greg Abbott was "working as swiftly as Texas law allows regarding the pardon of Sgt. Perry," Abbott tweeted Saturday afternoon, explaining Texas law allows the governor to request the state's pardon board to determine if a pardon should be granted, and he'd "made that request and instructed the Board to expedite its review."
Abbott also referenced Texas' "Stand Your Ground" law, which he called "one of the strongest" in the country. Such laws generally allow people to respond to threats or force without fear of criminal prosecution in any place where a person has the right to be.
Perry's defense has argued he shot Foster in self-defense after Foster approached his car with an assault-style rifle. Perry was an active-duty sergeant working for a ride-share service to make extra money at the time of the killing, his lawyers have said.
Perry had dropped off a client near the protest and did not know the event, which followed the in-custody death of Black father George Floyd, was taking place, his defense has said. He carried a handgun in his car for protection as a driver, according to his lawyers.
The prosecution argued Perry initiated the encounter by running a red light to turn into the crowd gathered for the protest against police brutality and had previously posted on social media about shooting protesters, according to CNN affiliate KEYE.
Foster, 28, died shortly after the shooting.
Foster's mother, Sheila Foster, said her son was a Libertarian and had marched for "50 straight days in the Texas summer heat against systemic racism."
"My son was marching because he believed in equality and in our Constitutional rights. He was fighting the abuse of power. He did not deserve to die, and justice for my son should not be politicized," she said in a statement.
Perry's lawyer, Clint Broden, was disappointed with the verdict, he said.
"We are disappointed in the verdict both as it relates to Daniel Perry and as it relates to a citizen's ability to defend themselves," Broden told CNN on Saturday. "Sgt. Perry will, of course, appeal the verdict and we are hopeful that the case will ultimately be overturned on appeal."
A judge on Monday is expected to set a sentencing hearing for Perry.
Quentin Brogdon, a civil attorney for the Foster family, criticized Abbott's move for a pardon before the sentencing and the appeals process, saying it "turns the rule of law on its head."
The 12 jurors in the case heard 40 witnesses and deliberated for 15 hours, and state and federal appeals courts are allowed to overturn the conviction "if it is contrary to the rule of law," Brogdon said in a statement.
"Nobody, including the Governor of the State of Texas should shut down that process, and any attempt to do so threatens the rule of law for all of us," Brogdon said.
Whitney Mitchell, Foster's longtime partner who was with Foster the night he was killed, said she was relieved to learn the verdict, but now feels she's living a "nightmare" again after the governor began pushing for a pardon.
"I just thought it was disgusting," she told CNN in an interview. "I don't think that (Abbott) has fully, like, read the case or knows what's going on with it. And I honestly can't understand this decision."
Mitchell has been reliving the moment Foster died for three years, she said.
"He was the love of my life. He took care of me. I grew up with him," she said. "I don't know what to do. He's been gone for so long and I'm still trying to figure out what to do."
The pardon process "is outside our control," Perry's attorney said in response to Abbott's tweet. Perry's legal team is focused on "the upcoming sentencing hearing and marshaling evidence related to Sgt. Perry's character and his service to our country," he said.
Travis County District Attorney José Garza called Abbott's comments that he would intervene in the case "deeply troubling," and on Monday said that just by announcing his intention, Abbott had "undermined the rule of law in the state of Texas, and he has made our community less safe."
"Every single day here in Travis County, we hold people accountable who commit acts of gun violence," Garza told CNN's Kaitlan Collins.
"We are going to continue to hold people accountable who commit acts of gun violence, and obviously, if the governor wants to continue to pardon people who commit acts of gun violence, that's up to him, but there is no doubt in my mind that it makes our community less safe," Garza said.
Garza said he is also thinking about Foster's parents and fiancée, who are "heartbroken right now."
"They waited so long to have their moment in court. They waited so long for justice for their son, and justice, I think, feels so elusive to them right know," he said.
"I want them to know that the Travis County District Attorney's Office is going to continue to fight for a criminal justice system where everyone is treated equally, including Garrett Foster," the prosecutor said.
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