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Daniel Perry pardoned the murder of a Black Lives Matter protester in 2020

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Daniel Perry, a former Army sergeant convicted of killing a Black Lives Matter protester in downtown Austin in 2020, was released from prison Thursday, just an hour after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a pardon proclamation had.

In a series of rapid developments in less than two hours, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended that Perry be pardoned based on the murder conviction. Abbott then granted Perry a full pardon, leading to his release from the Mac Stringfellow Unit in Rosharon, about 20 miles south of downtown Houston.

Perry, According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the man, who was 36 years old at the time of his sentencing in April 2023, may also be able to request that his record be expunged.

In a statement posted on its website Thursday, the board announced its recommendation to pardon Perry and restore his firearms rights. The decision came after a “careful review of relevant documents, from police reports to court records, witness statements to interviews with individuals connected to the case,” the statement said.

In July 2020, Perry shot and killed Garrett Foster after he drove into a racial justice protest on Congress Avenue. Perry claimed he shot Foster, who was carrying an AK-47 rifle, in self-defense. During Perry's trial last year, prosecutors argued that Perry sought confrontation.

“Texas has one of the strictest 'Stand Your Ground' self-defense laws that cannot be overturned by a jury or a progressive district attorney,” Abbott said in a statement Thursday. “I thank the board for its thorough investigation and agree with its recommendation for a pardon.”

In a statement issued Thursday, Abbott took aim at Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza, writing that Garza “demonstrated an unethical and biased abuse of his office in the prosecution of Daniel Scott Perry.”

Less than 24 hours after a jury found Perry guilty of murder in April 2023, Abbott said further social media that he would agree to a pardon if one were recommended by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. The announcement came after prominent conservative figures called on him to overturn Perry's conviction.

“Daniel Perry spent 372 days in prison and lost the military career he loved,” Doug O'Connell, an attorney representing Perry, said in a statement. “The action of Governor Abbott and the Pardon Board corrects the courtroom travesty that occurred over a year ago and delivers justice in this case.”

“I spoke to Daniel Perry this afternoon. He is thrilled and delighted to be free. Daniel is also optimistic about his future.”

Shortly after Abbott's announcement, a state district judge unsealed court records that included Perry's previously unpublished messages and social media posts that contained racist rhetoric.

Garza condemned the actions of the parole board and Abbott, writing in a statement that they had “put their politics above justice and made a mockery of our legal system.”

“You sent a message to Garrett Foster’s family, to his partner and to our community that his life doesn’t matter. They sent the message that the service of the Travis County community members who served on the grand jury and trial jury “doesn’t matter,” Garza said. “We will not stop fighting for justice.”

In a written statement to the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, Foster's partner Whitney Mitchell condemned Abbott's decision and said there was evidence that Foster intended to murder a protester.

“I loved Garrett Foster. I thought we would grow old together,” Mitchell said in the statement, which was sent through her attorney, Angelica Cogliano. “He was the love of my life. He still is. This lawlessness breaks my heart. Governor Abbott has shown that only certain lives matter to him. It has made us all less safe.”

“With this pardon, the governor has desecrated the life of a murdered Texan, called into question the fair verdict of this jury, and declared that citizens can be killed with impunity as long as they hold political views that differ from those of those in power.”

Governor pardons of prominent or controversial criminals have historically been the exception, not the rule, in Texas.

Abbott often announces his pardons or clemency around the holiday season, often involving people who were convicted of nonviolent crimes years and sometimes decades earlier.

Three days before Christmas 2023, the governor granted three pardons and clemencies. One involved someone who had been convicted of theft in 1990 and given a two-year deferred sentence. Another involved a theft in 1978 that was punishable by a $500 fine. The third case involved a 2010 marijuana possession conviction in which the offender was sentenced to three days in jail.

Two years earlier, felons with slightly more serious convictions — one for robbery, which carried a presumptive sentence, and one for gun possession, which involved serving alcohol and did not result in prison time — were among the eight pardons issued by Abbott during the holiday.

This is a developing story; More information can be found here.

Anna Harden

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