Prosecutor seeks to reverse former soldier’s pardon in fatal shooting

by Vern Evans

AUSTIN, Texas — A prosecutor said Tuesday he is asking the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reverse the governor’s pardon of a former Army sergeant who was convicted of fatally shooting a Black Lives Matter demonstrator.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza and the family of Garrett Foster, who was killed during a protest in July 2020, have called Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s full pardon of Daniel Perry a mockery of the legal system.

Garza said Tuesday that Abbott had “put politics over justice,” and he vowed to use every option available to reverse the governor’s decision.

“We will continue to use the legal process to seek justice,” he said during a news conference in Austin.

The Court of Criminal Appeals is the state’s highest court for criminal matters. All nine elected judges are Republicans. Garza said he believes the case is unique in state history, from the rapid request for pardon and its approval to a request for the appeals court to intervene.

“All of this is new ground,” Garza said.

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. An attorney from Perry’s legal team declined to comment.

Perry was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison in May 2023 for the fatal shooting of Foster during a demonstration in downtown Austin.

Foster’s mother, Sheila Foster, described the pardon as “absolutely unacceptable to our family.”

“We will fight this until we get justice for Garrett,” Foster said, her voice quivering with emotion. “My own child was killed on American soil for doing nothing but practicing his First and Second Amendment rights. And our governor just said, ‘That’s OK. That’s acceptable.’”

Perry, who is white, was working as a ride-share driver when his car approached the demonstration. Prosecutors said he could have driven away from the confrontation with Foster, a white Air Force veteran who witnesses said never raised his gun.

A jury convicted Perry of murder, but Abbott called the shooting self-defense, noting Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” law. Abbott ordered the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to review Perry’s case, and issued a full pardon last month over the objections of Foster’s family and prosecutors. Perry was quickly released from prison.

Last month, 14 Democrat attorneys general from around the country said the U.S. Justice Department should investigate whether Perry denied Foster his right to free speech and peacefully protest. Garza said Tuesday that he echoed that request.

A federal probe could open Perry to federal charges. The “DOJ has historically used federal civil-rights laws to prosecute acts of hate, especially when states refuse or fail to hold people accountable for violating their fellow Americans’ civil rights,” the coalition of attorneys general said.

Garza said he will pursue what action he can in the state legal system, but that he would welcome federal scrutiny of the case.

“People all across the country are outraged about what happened to Garrett, what happened to his family,” Garza said. “We’re grateful for their request and would echo their request.”

Foster was killed amid the widespread demonstrations against police killings and racial injustice that followed the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer. Perry’s conviction prompted immediate calls for a pardon from state and national conservatives.

“Throughout American history, our freedom of speech and right to peaceful protest have been two of the most powerful tools used to combat injustice and oppression,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said last week. “Vigilante violence is unacceptable, particularly when that violence is used to deprive Americans of their lives and most fundamental liberties.”

Perry claimed he was trying to drive past the crowd and fired his pistol when Foster pointed a rifle at him. Witnesses testified that they did not see Foster raise his weapon. Prosecutors argued that Perry could have driven away without shooting.

Abbott’s rush to wipe away the conviction also raised questions about how a governor might try to overturn a jury’s verdict in the future.

After the verdict but before Perry was sentenced, the court unsealed dozens of pages of text messages and social media posts that showed he had hostile views toward Black Lives Matter protests.

In a comment on Facebook a month before the shooting, Perry wrote, “It is official I am a racist because I do not agree with people acting like animals at the zoo.”

Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed.

Read the full article here

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