Texas Governor Greg Abbott has announced that he would pardon Daniel S. Perry, who was found guilty of killing Garrett Foster, a protester at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in 2020 in Austin, as long as the state Board of Pardons and Paroles brought a recommendation to his desk. Perry, an active-duty US Army sergeant and a driver for Uber at the time, had driven towards a crowd of marchers when Foster, who carried an AK-47-style rifle, approached the vehicle. Perry’s lawyers argued that he acted in self-defense as Foster had pointed the weapon at their client. However, prosecutors said that Perry had instigated the episode. Perry’s social media posts, such as a post that said, “they are rioting outside my apartment complex,” were cited as evidence. Perry’s potential pardon threatens to undermine the Travis County District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case.
The Governor’s announcement follows the statement made by Matt Rinaldi, the chairman of the Republican Party in Texas, expressing his disagreement with the verdict and calling for a pardon. Abbott’s statement noted that 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. A pardon would free Perry from a prison sentence, enable him to vote and restore his right to serve on a jury.
One supporter of Perry has been Kyle Rittenhouse, who in November 2021 was acquitted on all charges in his trial over the shootings of three white men after demonstrations in Kenosha, Wis., in 2020 over the shooting of a Black man by a white police officer. Rittenhouse wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he prayed that the Board of Pardons and Paroles would recommend to the governor that Perry be pardoned.
Abbott tends to grant pardons around Christmas each year. In 2018, less than an hour before Thomas Whitaker was scheduled to be executed, Abbott spared the man’s life, accepting the unanimous recommendation of the Board of Pardons to change the death sentence of Whitaker, who had orchestrated the killing of his mother and brother near Houston in 2003, to life in prison without parole.
The potential pardon of Perry has a perplexing and bursty effect. The verdict that found Perry guilty of killing Foster led to Republican lawmakers introducing a bill in the State Senate that would curtail the power of elected prosecutors, particularly those in left-leaning counties who decline to pursue certain cases, such as those related to abortion bans. This bill, if passed, would limit the Travis County District Attorney’s office’s ability to prosecute cases like Perry’s, which threatens to undermine the office’s power. Ryan Foster, Garrett’s brother, has spoken out against Perry’s potential pardon, adding that he does not believe Perry deserves a pardon.
The verdict and potential pardon have also led to social media conversations and debates on gun rights, self-defense, and justice. Supporters and opponents of Perry’s potential pardon have expressed their opinions on social media, creating a bursty effect. Furthermore, the verdict and potential pardon have sparked discussions about the effectiveness and fairness of the “Stand Your Ground” law and the role of elected prosecutors in prosecuting cases in left-leaning counties.