Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced plans over the weekend to pardon Army sergeant Daniel Perry, the man convicted last week in the 2020 murder of a legally-armed 28-year-old at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Austin. “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,” Abbott said in a statement. “I look forward to approving the Board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it reaches my desk,” he added, claiming that he was also “reining in rogue District Attorneys.”
The move—which came just one day after Perry’s conviction—is unprecedented, and constitutes a stunning assault on the rule of law, legal experts said. “Profoundly wrong,” as former prosecutor Rick Cofer told the Austin American-Statesman. “Pure politics.” But the announcement was cheered by the sergeant’s supporters, including Kyle Rittenhouse, who became a hero to the far-right after he was found not guilty of murdering two people and wounding another at a 2020 racial justice protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “Daniel Perry did nothing wrong,” Rittenhouse wrote Saturday.
Perry, who was stationed at Fort Hood, was working a ride-share shift when he drove his car toward a crowd of people protesting the police murder of George Floyd. Garrett Foster, who was white, approached the car while openly carrying an AK-47—which is legal in Texas—and was shot and killed by Perry. Perry, who is also white, had previously written in social media posts and text messages about shooting protesters. “I might have to kill a few people on my way to work,” he wrote a friend in June 2020. Perry claimed to have killed Foster in self-defense. But a jury of his peers found him guilty Friday after 17 hours of deliberation, triggering outcry from the likes of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who made Perry a cause célèbre on the right and used his program to pressure Abbott for a pardon.
By requesting an expedited recommendation by the state’s Board of Pardons, Abbott is attempting to throw out the jury’s murder verdict—a maneuver that tramples all over the very “law and order” he and other Republicans claim to value, but clearly do not. “A jury gets to decide whether a defendant is guilty or innocent—not the governor,” District Attorney José Garza said in a statement. “For the first time since I lost Garrett, I felt some sense of justice and relief,” the victim’s fianacée, Whitney Mitchell, said in a statement Sunday. “The governor has immediately taken that away since he announced there are two legal systems in Texas: One for those with power, like Mr. Perry, and one for everyone else.”