Governor of Texas Greg Abbott’s recent decision to pardon convicted U.S. Army Sergeant Daniel Perry has faced criticism from a former alternate juror, Jere Dowell. In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Dowell called Abbott’s decision an “egregious overreach,” noting that politics did not play a role in the jury’s unanimous decision. Dowell expressed concern that Abbott’s move could lead other jurors to doubt their decisions and alter their verdicts without just cause.
Abbott’s decision to overturn the guilty verdict has been controversial and met with condemnation from legal experts and prosecutors. Until Friday’s verdict, the trial had little national attention, and Abbott had not publicly commented on the case. However, Abbott has faced criticism from conservative voices on social media and television following the verdict, according to Dallas Metro News.
The shooting incident occurred during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in Austin, Texas, in 2020. Video footage streamed live on Facebook showed Perry honking his car horn amid the downtown crowd before opening fire and shooting 28-year-old Garrett Foster, who was legally carrying an AK-47 while marching with protesters through downtown Austin. Witnesses testified that Foster never pointed his rifle at Perry, and prosecutors argued that Perry could have driven off rather than resorting to using his handgun. Perry did not testify, but his defense attorneys claimed that Foster had pointed his gun at Perry, triggering a self-defense response from the Sgt.
Dowell’s confidence in the verdict was based in part on testimony that Foster’s gun was pointing up, close to his ear – moments before the shooting – and that Foster was at least one foot away from Perry’s car. Prosecutors also presented text messages between Perry and a friend, discussing other cases in which protesters were shot and whether it amounted to self-defense.
Travis County District Attorney, Jose Garza, whose office prosecuted the case, has stated that neither Abbott nor his staff had watched the trial. Garza has requested to meet with the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles to present evidence, but they did not immediately respond to questions emailed on Wednesday. Perry is still awaiting sentencing from a judge, and he faces up to life imprisonment. Perry’s attorney, Clint Broden, has said they did not petition the governor for a pardon before Abbott’s tweet. Broden filed a motion seeking a new trial.
Abbott’s spokesperson has not yet responded to a message seeking comment from the governor, who has faced global criticism for his decision to overturn the unanimous verdict of the jury.