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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Abbott grants Daniel Perry pardon in murder of Black Lives Matter protester

AUSTIN, TEXAS – JUNE 08: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in the state Capitol on June 08, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Abbott and Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw joined bill authors, sponsors, legislators and law enforcement members in the signing of bills aimed at enhancing southern border security. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)  (Brandon Bell)
By Arelis R. Hernández Washington Post

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that he was pardoning Daniel Perry, the former Army sergeant convicted in the fatal shooting of a protester during a Black Lives Matter march, after a review board recommended he be released from prison.

“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,” he said in a statement. “I thank the Board for its thorough investigation, and I approve their pardon recommendation.”

Abbott has long vowed to pardon Perry, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison last year. After Perry’s conviction, unsealed court records revealed that he regularly shared racist memes and threatening content in private messages and social media posts, including descriptions of killing protesters and minorities.

Perry was convicted of murder in the death of 28-year-old Garrett Foster, who was legally armed with an AK-47 rifle, during a 2020 confrontation in downtown Austin at a racial justice demonstration. At the time, his attorneys vowed to appeal.

In a statement, Perry’s attorney, Doug O’Connell, said the board took time to review evidence and interview witnesses “to get to the truth” of the encounter between Foster and Perry that night in Austin in 2020.

The decision, he said, corrects “the courtroom travesty” that left his client behind bars for 372 days and resulted in the end of Perry’s military career.

“He is thrilled and elated to be free,” O’Connell wrote. “He wishes that this tragic event never happened and wishes he never had to defend himself against Mr. Foster’s unlawful actions.”

The state board in their declaration criticized Travis County District Attorney José Garza specifically for his handling of the case.

” … Rather than upholding the self-defense rights of citizens,” the pardon and parole board wrote, Garza “has prioritized ‘reducing access to guns’ that citizens may use to lawfully defend themselves …”

Garza strongly condemned the pardon, saying the state board and governor are sending a message that some lives matter and others do not under the law in Texas.

“The Board and the Governor have put their politics over justice and made a mockery of our legal system,” the district attorney said in a statement. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”

Garza, a Democrat, has become the target of conservatives in the state and in his more left-leaning county after the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a law limiting the discretion of elected district attorneys to prosecute certain offenses.

The Perry case attracted attention from conservative news personalities who called on Abbott to act, drawing comparisons between Perry’s self-defense claims and Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager acquitted after fatally shooting two men and wounding a third in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020 amid unrest after a police shooting.

In its statement Thursday, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles said it had reached its decision in the case after conducting a “meticulous review” of police reports, court records and witness statements in the case.

“After a thorough examination of the amassed information, the parole board reached a decision,” the panel said in a statement. “The Board voted unanimously to recommend a full pardon and restoration of firearm rights.”