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Governor Abbott’s pardon of the man who fatally shot Black Lives Matter protester Garrett Foster should be reversed, prosecutor says

Austin, Texas — The Texas governor’s pardon of a former Army sergeant who fatally shot a Black Lives Matter protester undermines the state’s justice system and constitution and must be reversed, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza said he is petitioning the Court of Criminal Appeals — the state’s highest criminal court — to review the pardon granted by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, which he said was a mockery of the justice system and endangered politics. before justice.

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

Daniel Perry shot and killed Garrett Foster during a protest in downtown Austin in July 2020. Perry was sentenced to 25 years in prison in May 2023, prompting immediate calls for clemency from conservative figures. Abbott granted a pardon last month and Perry was quickly released from prison.

The quick pardon undermined an established appeals process available to Perry and violated the state’s constitutional separation of powers, Garza said.

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

All nine elected judges on the court are Republican. Garza said he believes the case is unique in state history, from the speedy request for the pardon and its approval, to his request for the appeals court to intervene.

“This is all new territory,” he said.

Perry’s legal team called the pardon and the process initiated by Abbott “completely appropriate” under the state constitution and said it was Garza, a Democrat, who was guided by politics in prosecuting the case.

The governor, on the recommendation of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, “has the absolute power to pardon anyone on any basis, including the grounds of factual innocence,” Perry attorney Clint Broden said.

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 at the news conference, his voice shaking with emotion. “My own child was murdered on American soil for doing nothing more than exercising his First and Second Amendment rights. And our governor just said, ‘That’s OK. That’s acceptable.'”

Perry, a white driver, claimed he was trying to drive past the crowd and fired his gun when Foster pointed a rifle at him. Witnesses said Foster, a white Air Force veteran, never raised his gun. Prosecutors argued that Perry could have driven away without shooting.

Although Perry was convicted of murder, Abbott called the shooting self-defense, noting Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” law.

Last month, 14 Democratic attorneys general said the U.S. Department of Justice should investigate whether Perry Foster denied his rights to freedom of speech and peaceful protest. A federal investigation could open Perry up 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 the civil rights of their fellow citizens,” the coalition of attorneys general said.

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

“People across the country are outraged by what happened to Garrett and what happened to his family,” Garza said. “We are grateful for their request and would reiterate their request.”

Foster was killed during 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.

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

Abbott’s rush to throw out 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 about the Black Lives Matter protests. In a comment on Facebook a month before the shooting, Perry wrote: “It’s official that I’m a racist because I don’t agree with people acting like animals in the zoo.”

Copyright © 2024 by Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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