The sentencing hearing began Tuesday for an Army sergeant found guilty of murder in the 2020 shooting death of a protester at a Black Lives Matter rally in Texas.
Daniel Perry, 36, faces up to 99 years in prison for fatally shooting Garett Foster. Judge Clifford Brown will determine Perry’s sentence in a hearing that is scheduled to last up to two days.
But Perry might not spend much time in prison. Gov. Greg Abbott, after facing growing calls from national conservative figures to undo the conviction, tweeted last month that he would approve a pardon for Perry if a request was sent to him from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The board is reviewing Perry’s case.
What happened during the shooting?
Perry, an Army sergeant, was working as an Uber driver in Austin in July 2020 when he ran a red light and turned onto a street where Black Lives Matter protesters were marching. He told police Foster approached his car with a raised AK-47, so he shot Foster, 28, five times with a handgun.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Perry instigated the incident by driving toward the group of marchers and that Foster was defending himself when he approached Perry’s car.
A few witnesses said during the trial Foster never raised his rifle at Perry. Perry, who did not testify, told police that Foster did. No videos or photos presented at the trial that showed the position of Foster’s rifle when he was shot.
Lawyers present different versions of shooting
Prosecutor Guillermo Gonzalez said Perry’s posts on social media show he clearly had very strong feelings against protesters, including saying that people could get away with shooting them in Texas. He was angry when he turned into the crowd because a woman he wanted to meet up with had texted him asking for money, said Gonzalez.
Defense attorney Doug O’Connell said prosecutors wanted the jury “to believe (Perry) had this evil plan when he turned right.”
“The protesters didn’t know anything about Perry when they attacked the car and boxed it in,” he said, “and Daniel had no choice, and that could have happened to anyone.”
Gov. Abbott vows to pardon Perry
A Travis County jury deliberated 17 hours over two days to reach its decision after an eight-day trial. Less than 24 hours after Perry was convicted, Abbott announced on social media that he will pardon Perry as soon as a request “hits my desk.”
Abbott faced growing calls from national conservative figures such as then-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 a progressive District Attorney,” Abbott said in a tweet. “I will work as swiftly as Texas law allows regarding the pardon of Sgt. Perry.”
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.
Contributing: The Associated Press