Abbott calls for pardon, lawyers call for new trial after Army sergeant is convicted of murder

U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Perry was convicted last week of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester in Austin in 2020.

By Sarah AschApril 13, 2023 12:08 pm, ,

Gov. Greg Abbott has asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to consider recommending a pardon for U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Perry, who was convicted late last week of murdering Garrett Foster during a Black Lives Matter protest in Austin in 2020.

This was about two months into a series of national protests over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota. Perry, who was also an Uber driver, claimed he was driving on a street just south of the Texas Capitol during a protest on July 25, 2020, when Foster approached his car armed with an AK-47 rifle.

Perry, who had been armed with a revolver, claimed at his trial that he shot and killed Foster in self-defense. Prosecutors said Perry instigated the incident after running a red light, and they raised questions about Perry’s state of mind due to social media posts he had published before the incident about retaliating against the protesters.

Texas has one of the strongest Stand Your Ground laws in the nation, and on Saturday, Abbott characterized Perry’s conviction as an act of jury nullification and the work of a progressive district attorney.

Perry’s lawyers are also asking for a new trial. So what comes next?

Julián Aguilar, who has been following this case for the Texas Newsroom, said Perry’s lawyers are arguing that evidence backing their self-defense claim was not allowed in the initial trial.

“They’re saying that this is the reason that they should go through the process again,” Aguilar said. “There was just a back-and-forth about who acted first. So that would be what the arguments are hinging on in this retrial.”

In the meantime, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, at the governor’s request, is expediting its review of what happened during the original jury trial.

Perry has yet to be sentenced, and Aguilar said it’s unclear how this review might affect the timeline going forward.

“By all accounts, even folks on the conservative side said that this is highly unusual for the governor to insert himself this early on in the process,” Aguilar said. “When this came out over the weekend, there were some folks saying, you know, what does the governor know? Does he know that there was evidence withheld? Does he know, you know, certain facts that could have affected the case? Obviously, that didn’t come to light until Mr. Perry’s attorneys requested a new trial on Tuesday. So, you know, a lot of folks say this reeks of politics.”

» MORE: Abbott’s push to pardon man who murdered Austin protester ‘inherently political,’ observers say

Aguilar said the governor clearly believes the verdict was a miscarriage of justice.

“But in the meantime, [Travis County District Attorney José Garza] is saying this just completely nullifies the judicial process and law and order which Republicans are supposedly supposed to support,” Aguilar said.

The crux of the governor’s argument is that Texas has a Stand Your Ground law, which Abbott believes should have been sufficient to defeat any conviction of Perry in this trial. Aguilar said Stand Your Ground laws in Texas were extended to allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves in an automobile or in their place of work.

“Governor Abbott is saying he was defending himself; this was a violent mob of protesters and he had to do what he had to do,” Aguilar said. “Now, the counterargument to that is that the Stand Your Ground laws and the Castle Doctrine do not apply if the person that acted with deadly force was in fact the aggressor first. So, again, that’s the crux of the argument: who did what first and who was justified.”

Several witnesses spoke at the trial and said Perry was the agitator, Aguilar said.

This case has also been in the national spotlight, with commentators comparing it to Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted after he shot several protesters in Wisconsin.

“There were a lot of Republican commentators on social media and in broadcast news that said, well, so what does this mean, that there’s no law and order in Texas?” Aguilar said. “It’s also sort of curious that on Wednesday, the governor retweeted a story about California considering letting people off of death row. … So commenters on Twitter were very, very willing to call the governor out for hypocrisy when he’s criticizing California for this proposed legislation, when he’s at the same time advocating for a convicted murderer to be set free.”

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