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What to know as Gov. Abbott pushes to pardon a man who was just convicted of murder

Whitney Mitchell (center), Garrett Foster's fiancée, leads a march for Foster in July of 2020, after Foster was shot and killed at a Black Lives Matter protest. Sgt. Daniel Perry has been found guilty of murdering Foster — but Gov. Greg Abbott wants to pardon Perry.
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Whitney Mitchell (center), Garrett Foster's fiancée, leads a march for Foster in July of 2020, after Foster was shot and killed at a Black Lives Matter protest. Sgt. Daniel Perry has been found guilty of murdering Foster — but Gov. Greg Abbott wants to pardon Perry.

One day after a jury convicted U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Perry of murder for shooting and killing Garrett Foster at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he wants Perry to receive a pardon.

Perry, 35, hasn't been sentenced yet, but the state pardons and parole board is already starting to review his case, at Abbott's request.

"I am working as swiftly as Texas law allows regarding the pardon of Sgt. Perry," Abbott said over the weekend, via Twitter.

Here's a recap of the case and what is happening now:

What happened between Foster and Perry?

Foster and Perry encountered each other at a street protest on July 25, 2020 — about two months into national protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Perry, who was stationed at Ft. Hood, was in downtown Austin working as an Uber driver that night when he turned onto a street crowded with protesters, including Foster. Both men were carrying firearms legally.

Foster, 28, was carrying an AK-47 at the protest, which he attended with his fiancée. Perry was armed with a revolver — and as Foster approached Perry's car, Perry shot him repeatedly.

Witnesses said Perry was driving dangerously close to protesters; they also said Foster didn't raise his weapon toward Perry. But the defense team said Perry feared for his life, and that Foster had raised his gun. Prosecutors said Perry instigated the incident after running a red light.

A Travis County jury convicted Perry of murder on Friday.

Why does Abbott want to exonerate Perry?

The governor didn't go into detail about why he believes Perry should be pardoned, but he cited Perry's attorney's explanation that Perry shot Foster in 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.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is siding with Sgt. Daniel Perry's defense team, who say Perry acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Garrett Foster in July of 2020. Abbott asked the state pardons and parole board to review Perry's case.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is siding with Sgt. Daniel Perry's defense team, who say Perry acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Garrett Foster in July of 2020. Abbott asked the state pardons and parole board to review Perry's case.

How soon could the governor pardon Perry?

Under Texas law, Abbott can't act on his own. He can only grant a pardon after the Board of Pardons and Paroles has made a recommendation on a case. But, Abbott notes, he can ask the board to look at particular cases, like Perry's.

"I have made that request and instructed the Board to expedite its review," Abbott said. Leaving no doubt about what he expects the outcome to be, the governor added, "I look forward to approving the Board's pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk."

The pardons and paroles board confirmed to NPR on Monday that it has received Abbott's request and his recommendation for a pardon.

"The board will be commencing that investigation immediately," the agency told NPR. "Upon completion, the board will report to the governor on the investigation and make recommendations to the governor."

It did not provide an estimate of how long the review might take.

What is the district attorney's office saying?

Travis County District Attorney José Garza says it is "deeply troubling" that Abbott is intervening in the case, noting that the legal process around the case isn't yet complete.

"In this case, a jury of twelve listened to testimony for nearly two weeks, upending their lives to painstakingly evaluate the evidence and arguments presented by both the State and the Defense," Garza said in a statement emailed to NPR.

He also noted that the jurors deliberated for over 15 hours before reaching the unanimous decision that Perry was guilty of murder — a decision Abbott now wants to overturn.

Even without Abbott's actions, Garza said, the case would be reviewed by state and federal courts to ensure proper legal procedures were followed.

Has Perry been sentenced?

No — and while the pardon review gets under way, Perry is facing a sentence of up to life in prison.

Criminal District Judge Clifford Brown was to set a date for the sentencing at a hearing this week.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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