Abbott's Pardon Request for BLM Killer Draws Rebukes, Legal Concerns

Gov Greg Abbott [R-TX] appearing on tape at the May 27, 2022, NRA convention in Houston.


(Brandon Bell/Getty)

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) is trying to score political points by demanding an accelerated pardon for a man convicted of killing a Black Lives Matter protester, according to both a member of Congress and a legal analyst.

U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Perry was convicted last week of murdering Garret Foster, who was White, during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd.

The day after Perry’s conviction, Abbott called for his pardon and told the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to expedite their review of Perry’s case, amid pressure from conservatives.

Rep. Greg Casar (D-TX) says that Abbott is abusing the power of issuing a pardon “to win a presidential primary.” (Abbott is not a candidate, but has been the subject of some speculation about a possible run.)

The legal director of the Black Voters Matter Fund called Abbott’s pardon push “very dangerous to the judicial process.”

According to reports, Perry drove into a crowd of protesters in Austin and told police that a group was screaming at him and kicking his car. According to witnesses, Foster, a 28-year-old Air Force veteran who was legally carrying an AK-47, was trying to protect demonstrators when he approached Perry, who claimed self-defense after shooting Foster five times before speeding off.

Perry’s social media and web searches suggested that Perry may have planned to go to demonstrations in Austin and Dallas to kill people. One post on May 31, 2020, read, “I might have to kill a few people on my way to work they are rioting outside my apartment complex.”

And documents unsealed after the jury handed down its verdict show Perry referring to himself as a racist. In one post Perry wrote, "Black Lives Matter is racist to white people...It is official I am racist because I do not agree with people acting like monkeys.”

Perry was found guilty last Friday. An alternate juror said that Abbott’s attempt to override the jury’s decision with a pardon for Perry was an “egregious overreach.”

Abbott cited Texas’ stand-your-ground law as justification for pardoning Perry, who has yet to be sentenced. In his tweet, Abbott said he is limited to acting on the recommendation of his pardons board and that he “look[s] forward to approving the Board’s pardon recommendation.”

While its rules say the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will consider a request from the governor for a full pardon in any case, Abbott’s demand for an expedited decision amounts to circumventing the Board’s process. Pardon applications can take years to research and consider.

According to the state’s pardon application, the process for obtaining a full pardon in Texas is lengthy. It requires the submission of certified court and arrest documents, letters of recommendation from at least two trial officials with one submitting documented “evidence of actual innocence,” and three letters of recommendation from non-family members.

The process also requires applicants to give their own version of events and their involvement in the crime in which they’re accused, state why they’re requesting a full pardon, and show what they’ve done since their conviction to rehabilitate themselves and “become a productive member of society.” They must also attach an official criminal history.

While the pursuit by the pro-life governor to skip that process for a convicted murderer sidelines Foster’s family -- who would typically be asked for input on a pardon -- and undermines the broader fight to uphold civil rights in this country, it also throws a political hand grenade into what many already consider a broken justice system stacked against Black and Brown people.

Black Voters Matter Fund Legal Director April England-Albright told TYT that it’s no coincidence the system “all of a sudden” doesn’t work.

“[W]hen these southern states start to take action, what they're trying to do is create blueprints,” said England-Albright. “What they're trying to do is create a way around the system that they even created, and upheld and revered for so many years when it acted to the injustice of so many Black and Brown people.”

England-Albright likened Perry’s case to that of Kyle Rittenhouse, who went to a BLM protest in Kenosha, WI, armed with an AR-15-style rifle, killing two people and injuring another in 2020. While Rittenhouse was acquitted, she says that in the Perry case jurors made the right decision, but that Abbott’s move is creating a “dangerous precedent” for other governors.

“What we’re seeing is white supremacists in this country are going for broke, and they are pulling every single lever of power at their disposal,” said England-Albright.

In a statement, Casar said, “After this move, Abbott can never again claim that he’s for public safety, a fair criminal justice system, or common sense.”

England-Albright says she’s concerned that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which was mostly appointed by Abbott, will simply do as he says, in which case she would look to the Department of Justice to intervene.

But England-Albright also emphasized the power of voting, demonstrating, and community organizing to hold Abbott and other elected officials accountable, citing as inspiration recent demonstrations in Tennessee which ultimately led to the reinstatement of two Black state representatives who were ousted from their seats by a Republican supermajority.

“[W]e've got to use that as a beacon of light, as a North Star of how that is also a powerful check of, you know, unbridled abuse of power,” said England-Albright.

TYT Washington Correspondent Candice Cole was previously a correspondent and senior White House producer for the Black News Channel and has worked at a number of local news outlets. You can find her on Twitter @CandiceColeNews.