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Sentence of Army sergeant convicted of murdering Black Lives Matter protester in question after Texas governor pledges pardon

Daniel Perry, right, was convicted of fatally shooting Garrett Foster, left, during a Black Lives Matter protest in Austin, Texas. (Foster vigil photo from Austin's ABC affiliate KVUE; Foster's inset photo courtesy Sheila Foster via KVUE; Perry's mugshot from Austin Police Department)

Image from a vigil for Garrett Foster via KVUE. Inset, left: Foster, courtesy Sheila Foster via KVUE. Inset right: Mugshot of Daniel Perry, who was convicted of fatally shooting Garrett Foster during a Black Lives Matter protest in Austin, Texas, via Austin Police Department)

An Army sergeant has been sentenced to decades behind bars for murdering a Black Lives Matter supporter at a protest in Texas in 2020, but he may not serve that time — because Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to seek a pardon.

Daniel Perry, 36, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday. He was convicted on April 7 of murder in the fatal shooting of Garrett Foster, 28, at a Black Lives Matter rally in Austin, Texas, on July 25, 2020.

“After three long years, we’re finally getting justice for Garrett,” his mother, Sheila Foster, told the court after Perry was sentenced, according to the Associated Press. “Mr. Perry, I pray to God that one day, he will get rid of all this hate that is in your heart.”

Prosecutor Guillermo Gonzalez said Perry was a “loaded gun, ready to go off at any perceived threat,” the AP reported.

“He’s going to do it again,” Gonzalez said, according to the AP.

Perry claimed Foster, who was legally carrying an AK-47 at the time, pointed the gun at him and that he fired his pistol at Foster in self-defense. Prosecutors, however, argued the shooting was premeditated, and they presented evidence that Perry harbored violent attitudes toward “rioting” and people he called “looters.”

Perry’s verdict prompted outrage from prominent conservatives — including former Fox News star Tucker Carlson — calling Perry’s actions self-defense and criticizing Abbott, the AP reported. At the time, Abbott posted a statement to Twitter that he had already requested that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles consider expediting a pardon — a highly unusual move, according to the AP, citing legal experts.

Perry’s attorney Clinton Broden said the conviction was a “political prosecution” and that his client would appeal. He also vowed to “fully cooperate in the pardon process,” the AP reported.

“I look forward to approving the Board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk,” Abbott said. “Additionally, I have already prioritized reigning in rogue District Attorneys, and the Texas Legislature is working on laws to achieve that goal.”

The governor’s press office did not respond to emails seeking the status of the request. The Board of Pardons and Paroles said in an email to Law&Crime that the investigation is ongoing and that it had no further comment.

Foster’s younger sister Anna Mayo said she was shocked over Abbott’s tweet.

“The jury ultimately came to a decision, and it was unanimous,” she told Austin’s ABC affiliate KVUE. “That shouldn’t be disrespected.”

Broden said Wednesday the pardon process is a valuable check on the court system, according to the AP.

“Those who claim that Governor Abbott’s expressed intent is based on politics simply choose to ignore the fact that it was only the political machinations of a rogue district attorney which led to Sgt. Perry’s prosecution in the first instance,” the defense lawyer said.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza said the jurors made their decision after hours of deliberation and that he stands by the case. He urged the parole board to consider all the evidence and the impact on the victim’s family.

“In our legal system, a jury gets to decide whether a defendant is guilty or innocent – not the Governor,” he said in a statement.

Foster’s mother told CBS Texas that her son had been pushing his fiancee, a quadruple amputee who lost her limbs after an infection turned septic, in a wheelchair through the streets during the demonstration after 50 days of protesting police brutality following the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

“He loved her so much,” she told the station. “She’s 19 years old, going to school to be a dancer, and they cut off all four of her limbs, and then she had to watch him die in the street.”

Working an Uber shift, Perry approached protesters blocking a road and drove into the crowd. Foster approached Perry’s vehicle with an AK-47.

Recordings of 911 calls captured the moments after the shooting.

“I made a wrong turn,” Perry told 911, according to KXAN. “A guy pointed a freakin’ weapon at me, and I panicked. I don’t know what to do. I’m just an Uber driver. I made a wrong turn. I’ve never had to shoot someone before. They started shooting back at me, and I got out of the area.”

Former Austin police officer Joshua Visi, who responded to the scene, testified that Perry was visibly distraught.

“I could hear the nervousness, the quiver in his voice,” he said.

The Austin Chronicle published texts from the shooter suggesting how he felt about protesters.

“I might have to kill a few people on my way to work,” he wrote in June 2020, according to The Chronicle. “They are rioting outside my apartment complex.”

“I might go to Dallas to shoot looters,” he wrote in another text.

Perry’s attorney Douglas O’Connell argued that the texts were presented by prosecutors out of context and that Perry has a right to free speech, the AP reported.

“Some of those social media posts are frankly repugnant,” O’Connell said. He classified other posts and texts as “dark humor,” the AP said.

Perry’s defense attorneys sought a new trial based in part on what they allege was improper jury behavior during trial and deliberations. That request was denied last week.

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