Abbott Promises to Pardon Just-Convicted Murderer

An outrageous political stunt.

Austin American-Statesman (“Gov. Greg Abbott announces he will push to pardon Daniel Perry who was convicted of murder“):

Less than 24 hours after a jury in Austin found Daniel Perry guilty of shooting to death a protester, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on social media Saturday that he would pardon the convicted killer as soon as a request “hits my desk.”

The unprecedented effort, which Abbott announced to his 1 million followers on Twitter, came as Abbott faced growing calls from national conservative figures such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted in the shooting deaths of two Wisconsin protesters in 2020, to act to urgently undo the conviction.

“Texas has one of the strongest ‘Stand your ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or progressive district attorney,” Abbott said in a statement. “I will work as swiftly as Texas law allows regarding the pardon of Sgt. Perry.”

While I was vaguely aware that the trial was ongoing, I didn’t follow it closely. But this hardly reads like a case where a pardon is warranted.

Perry, an Army sergeant, was working as an Uber driver in Austin on the night of July 25, 2020, when he ran a red light at the intersection of Fourth Street and Congress Avenue and drove into a Black Lives Matter march before stopping.

Garrett Foster, carrying an AK-47 rifle, was among a group of protesters who approached his car. Perry told police that Foster threatened him by raising the barrel of his rifle at him, so he shot him five times with a .357 revolver through the window of his car before driving away.  

Perry’s defense team argued that he acted in self-defense, but prosecutors contended that Perry instigated what happened. 

Based on those facts alone, I could see a jury ruling either way. Perry ran a red light into a crowd of protestors, which is surely a criminal act (although the jury found him not guilty of “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon”). But, if Foster threatened him with an AK-47, he nonetheless retained the right of self-defense. You can’t have a duty to allow yourself to be murdered by an angry protestor, even if he had every right to be angry.

It turns out, though, that prosecutors had a wee bit more information:

They highlighted a series of social media posts and Facebook messages in which Perry made statements that they said indicated his state of mind, such as he might “kill a few people on my way to work. They are rioting outside my apartment complex.”

A friend responded, “Can you legally do so?” Perry replied, “If they attack me or try to pull me out of my car then yes.”

Now, that changes things a mite, no? Suddenly, we have a premeditated murder.

A jury Friday unanimously convicted Perry.

State District Judge Clifford Brown is set to sentence him to prison in the coming days. He faces up to life in prison.

David Wahlberg, a former Travis County criminal court judge, said he cannot think of another example in the state’s history when a governor sought a pardon before a verdict was formally appealed.

“I think it’s outrageously presumptuous for someone to make a judgment about the verdict of 12 unanimous jurors without actually hearing the evidence in person,” Wahlberg said.

Now, that part’s silly. Governors pardon people found guilty by unanimous juries with some regularity. I suspect few, if any, of then attended the trial.

Still, it’s an absurd position:

Jennifer Laurin, a University of Texas law professor, addressed the portion of Abbott’s statement on Texas’ self-defense laws. She said that a jury is instructed to reject the defense when the person asserting it provoked the response, as prosecutors say Perry did when he drove his car into a crowd of protesters.

“Painting the conviction as rogue nullification is uniformed or deceptive,” Laurin tweeted.

I have long thought that vesting the pardon power in a governor or president was antiquated, a holdover from monarchical rule, and that a less political, more systematic method of correcting miscarriages of justices was called for. Even if we assume good faith, which I tend to do, it’s not right that the pardon should be more available to the well-connected or those whose cases happen to garner publicity. Indeed, even in Texas, it appears Abbott doesn’t have that unilateral power:

Abbott lacks authority under state law to issue a pardon without first getting a recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose members he appoints. In his statement, Abbott said he already asked the board to review the verdict to determine if Perry should be granted a pardon.

“I have made that request and instructed the board to expedite its review,” Abbott said. “I look forward to approving the board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk.”

Abbott typically announces pardons every year in December around Christmas.

A pardon would release Perry from his sentence and restore his right to vote and serve on a jury.Defense lawyer Rick Cofer, who was not involved in the trial, expressed astonishment over Abbott’s announcement.

“It’s what happens in Uganda or El Salvador,” said Cofer, a former prosecutor. “Total abrogation of the rule of law. And what’s even worse is that Abbott knows better. He was a smart Texas Supreme Court Justice. He knows this is legally wrong. Profoundly wrong. Pure politics.”

I don’t know enough about the judicial systems of Uganda or El Salvador to comment but, yes, this is pure politics. And it makes zero sense to have a Board of Pardons and Paroles if they’re all appointed by the sitting governor.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Nearly any act performed by Abbot or DeSantis will make sense beyond any value for performance.

  2. Mikey says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Or, as Tom Nichols puts it, performative psychopathy.

    This is now performative psychopathy. Because the GOP after 2016 gave up on actually convincing people that they have ideas that are better than the opposition. Now it’s just lib-owning violent flameouts all the way down.

  3. Mikey says:

    It’s also a very clear illustration of this:

    Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    Lawless. Chaotic. Vindictive. This is who the Republican Party is, and has been for a long time. Anyone who believes that the clown Trump somehow magically turned a party of reasonable people into this seething and malignant stew simply hasn’t been paying attention. There s no material difference between today’s Republican base and that of the Tea Party takeover.

  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    Perry told police that Foster threatened him by raising the barrel of his rifle at him

    It should be noted that the prosecution witnesses testified that Foster didn’t point the rifle at Perry at any point

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “I have made that request and instructed the board to expedite its review,” Abbott said. “I look forward to approving the board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk.”

    For a supposedly independent board, Abbot sure seems pretty positive they will do his bidding. Forget kangaroo courts, this is kangaroo government.

  7. drj says:

    yes, this is pure politics.

    This is condoning and encouraging premeditated murder of “those people.”

    That goes a bit beyond politics, I would say. Although intimidating one’s political opponents through state-sanctioned vigilante justice could be technically (and euphemistically) classified as “politically norm-breaking behavior,” I guess.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    Texas is open carry. It was perfectly legal for the victim to be carrying an AK. Which is, itself, an outrageous state of affairs. FL has made it legal to drive into protesters blocking a road, although I assume there’d still be misdemeanor charge for running a red light to do it.

    It’s what Tom Nichols said above @Mikey:, they’ve got no ideas, they’ve got no platform, they’ve got no budget, all they have is performative assholery. And Abbott and DeSantis are in a contest.

  9. SenyorDave says:

    I guess if Perry had killed someone who counted, like a white person, Abbott wouldn’t be thinking of a pardon.

  10. CSK says:


    Perry did kill a white man; Foster was Caucasian.

  11. Modulo Myself says:

    Apparently Foster’s weapon was found with its safety on and no bullets in the chamber, and no witnesses supported Perry’s claim. It doesn’t sound like he had any defense other than wanting to kill a protestor–and it turns out that is an okay desire to have for the GOP, so good call on Perry’s part. He got to be a death squad. Now he’ll get pardoned. And then wingnut welfare time, probably paid out by Harlan Crow, the very-normal guy with Nazi linens and Hitler’s art.

  12. Modulo Myself says:


    The two-party system has simply forced Republican politicians to legalize the hunting of progressives.

  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    Another thing to note, from a media bias perspective:

    While every article is going out of its way to emphasize that the murderer was a veteran, none of them seem to mention that the victim was also a veteran.

  14. Moosebreath says:

    “You can’t have a duty to allow yourself to be murdered by an angry protestor, even if he had every right to be angry.”

    Funny how no one is suggesting that Foster had the right to stand his ground when Perry “ran a red light at the intersection of Fourth Street and Congress Avenue and drove into a Black Lives Matter march”.

  15. Moosebreath says:


    Or in other words, what @Modulo Myself: said.

  16. Sleeping Dog says:

    Of course Abbot won’t be able to pardon him after he’s convicted in the inevitable Federal civil rights case.

  17. MarkedMan says:

    You can’t have a duty to allow yourself to be murdered by an angry protestor, even if he had every right to be angry.

    This illustrates what stand-your-ground and open carry laws inevitably lead to: Foster should have put a bullet in Perry’s head as soon as he came at them with the car. I’m not being sarcastic. SYG and open carry effectively legalizes gun fighting on public streets.

    One of the first things frontier towns did when they got big enough to have real governance was to pass a law against gun fighting inside city limits and hire sheriffs capable of enforcing it. They also usually made carrying a gun in town illegal too. It was universally seen as a requirement for civilization.

  18. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Please stop posting this assertion in every single post. It’s beyond tiresome.

    @Modulo Myself: While I agree with the jury that this was murder, there’s no way he would have known or should have been expected to know whether there was a round in the chamber or what position the safety was in. I assume a brandished weapon is about to fire.

    @Stormy Dragon: The shooter was active duty Army, not a veteran.

    Foster wasn’t in trial for murder.

    @MarkedMan: Agreed all around. Protesting with an AR-47 is rioting. That the right has normalized it is just bizarre.

  19. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    No one but the killer said that a gun was pointed at him. The guy drove in and shot a protester without any provocation. And this is what Republicans apparently believe is their right.

  20. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “Foster wasn’t in trial for murder.”

    True, very few dead people are tried for murder. I am saying that Foster had as much right to point his weapon at Perry as Perry did to Foster. Yet, no one brings this up.

  21. Gustopher says:

    I assume this means Abbott thinks he has a chance at the 2024 nomination, and is going to throw his hat in the ring. Or he was just jealous of the Tennessee legislature getting headlines for performative assholery — I guess we are up to competitive assholery.

    Republicans are a threat to everything this country claims to stand for. Is there any other lesson we should be taking from this?

    Oh, that and Foster should have had bullets in his gun and shot Perry to death. Would he have gotten away with it? Maybe, maybe not, but better than being dead.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    I assume a brandished weapon is about to fire.

    Apparently witnesses did not see it brandished, or even raised.

  23. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    Protesting with an AR-47 is rioting

    This implies that carrying an AR-47 is an inherently violent act. Is open carry inherently violent?

  24. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath: @gVOR08: But I was basing my analysis on the description of events given by the defense and arguing that, even then, I could have gone either way.

    @anjin-san: I think it depends on the circumstances but, usually, I’d say yes. It’s an implied threat to shoot. I know it’s often legal but it certainly changes the dynamic in a way likely to lead to violence.

  25. steve says:

    Safety on and a round not chambered is good supportive evidence of al the witnesses who claimed he was not aiming at Perry.


  26. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’d say yes. It’s an implied threat to shoot

    Exactly. If I am in a restaurant and someone walks in carrying a gun in plain sight, I have to assume he is a potential threat (this is not something you see where I live).

    Are guns dangerous? People will argue about that forever. Guns + human beings? Dangerous as f***. Absolutely no doubt about it.

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I, for one, will not be holding my breath waiting for a federal civil rights prosecution of one white guy shooting another. YMMV

  28. Jen says:

    I am getting so very tired of this theater on the part of Republican governors interested in higher office. It’s appalling that this is what they are resorting to in an effort to appeal to the base.

    The trend lines here don’t end anywhere good.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    The trend lines here don’t end anywhere good.

    That may well depend on how one feels about conservatives/Republicans holding a majority of offices in any given jurisdiction. Remember, you and Luddite and I and now Dr. Joyner (among others) are radicals who want to destroy the American way of life. Even Glenn Beck thinks that, and he’s the one who advocates for searching for a common ground with one’s enemies.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Remember, you and Luddite and I and now Dr. Joyner (among others) are radicals who want to destroy the American way of life.

    Have you seen Trump’s Easter message?


    This whole business about libturds wanting to destroy the country is pure projection.

    (Second shot at this post, after clearing the Safari cache.)

  31. Pylon says:

    As to Perry’s defence that a weapon was pointed at him, not only did no witness see it, but he contradicted himself in his own videoed interview with police, where he said he fired before the victim had a chance to point it.

    “I believe he was going to aim at me. I didn’t want to give him a chance to aim at me,” Perry told Detective Fugitt in the interview.