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Texas Gov. Abbott pushes to pardon Army sergeant convicted of killing BLM protester

ANDREW LIMBONG, HOST:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he's working swiftly on a possible pardon. That would be for convicted murderer and Army Sergeant Daniel Perry. Friday, a jury found Perry guilty of fatally shooting Garrett Foster, a man who'd been taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest back in 2020. But in Texas, the governor can't issue a pardon all on his own. For more on this, we're joined by the Texas Newsroom's Julian Aguilar. Hey there, Julian.

JULIÁN AGUILAR, BYLINE: Thank you for having me on.

LIMBONG: So tell us more about this case. So who is Army Sergeant Daniel Perry, and who was the man he's convicted of killing, Garrett Foster?

AGUILAR: So Daniel Perry - he's a sergeant in the United States military, and he was convicted of murdering Garrett Foster, as you just said. Perry was driving an Uber in July 2020 when Foster was participating in the Black Lives Matter protests in Austin. This followed the murder by police officers of George Floyd. So Foster was carrying an AK-47 long rifle, which is legal in Texas. Perry said Foster raised his weapon, but some witnesses said that was not the case. So Perry, who was also armed, shot and killed Foster. Now, under Texas law and the Castle Doctrine, a Texan can use deadly force to defend themselves or their property at home, work or, in this case, in an automobile. That was Perry's main defense - that he felt threatened. But the jury only returned its verdict last week, and Perry is still awaiting sentencing.

LIMBONG: We know Abbott can't issue a pardon on his own the way a U.S. president could, for instance. And so how does it work? What's the process in Texas?

AGUILAR: Right. That's correct. So the governor, like you said, can't unilaterally pardon someone without a recommendation from the state's Board of Pardon and Paroles (ph). So in a tweet over the weekend, Governor Abbott made it clear that he'd like the board, whose member he appoints - whose members he appoints - excuse me - to review that case to see if Perry should be granted a pardon. It's unclear how long that review would take, but Abbott has said that he's asked the board members to fast-track this review and that he would approve this recommendation as soon as it, quote, "hits his desk," according to his tweet. It's also worth noting that the board rejected a posthumous pardon for George Floyd, who was convicted of a minor drug conviction in 2004, when he lived in Texas. And according to data from the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice, the board recommended 53 clemency grants in 2020 and 75 in 2021. Out of all of those, Abbott only granted 15.

LIMBONG: What are you hearing in terms of reaction to this effort to pardon Perry?

AGUILAR: You know, the common theme out there, you know, among legal experts is that this is unprecedented. Again, Perry hasn't even been sentenced yet, much less gone through the appeals process. And when the governor does grant clemency, it's usually very late in the year - you know, right around December or close to the holiday season. Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza called Abbott's words deeply troubling and said a jury decides whether a defendant is guilty or innocent and not the governor. You know, but it's obvious that Abbott feels pressure from conservative groups and commentators like Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Carlson called the verdict a legal atrocity, and he called Abbott out for not appearing on the show. So less than 24 hours later, during Easter weekend, Abbott called for the board to review this conviction.

LIMBONG: Julian Aguilar of the Texas Newsroom. Julian, thanks so much.

AGUILAR: Thanks for having me on.

(SOUNDBITE OF KENDRICK LAMAR SONG, "SING ABOUT ME, I'M DYING OF THIRST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julián Aguilar