(CNN) As the Texas pardons board weighs a request from the governor for an expedited review of the conviction of an Army sergeant who fatally shot a protester at a Black Lives Matter rally, an attorney for the victim’s family is calling for the full legal process to play out first, including sentencing and an appeal.
Daniel Perry, 35, was convicted Friday of murder in the fatal shooting of Garrett Foster, 28, at the rally in Austin in 2020, which followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Both men are White.
The jury found Perry not guilty on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a deadly conduct charge is still pending with the county attorney’s office.
“I am working as swiftly as Texas law allows regarding the pardon of Sgt. Perry,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a tweet Saturday. “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 he asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to expedite his requested review of Perry’s conviction, noting Texas law doesn’t allow him to approve a pardon without a recommendation from the board.
“I look forward to approving the Board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk,” Abbott said in a statement.
Perry’s attorneys filed a motion Tuesday asking for a new trial, arguing that the defense team was not allowed to introduce evidence they believe showed Foster repeatedly instigated confrontations and harassed other drivers on the streets before the night of the deadly shooting.
Travis County District Attorney José Garza’s office responded to Tuesday’s motion by saying it has “full confidence in the guilty verdict.”
“These motions are standard motions filed by the defense following a guilty verdict,” a statement from Garza’s office reads. “We applaud the defense team for making use of the procedural safeguards that are available to defendants in our criminal justice system. However, we continue to stand by the jury’s unanimous decision to convict Daniel Perry for the murder of Garrett Foster.”
Garza earlier called Abbott’s intervention in the case “deeply troubling.”
“Make no mistake, without intervention from the Governor, the defendant’s conviction would be reviewed by both state and federal courts who will examine the record to ensure that no legal errors were made at this level and that the evidence supported the conviction,” Garza said.
On Tuesday, Garza wrote to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking to meet with them to present evidence considered by jurors in the case, he said in a statement.
He also asked the board to meet with Foster’s family and consider the public safety implications of their decision before making a final recommendation.
“For as long the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has existed, it has been a cautious steward of the power of clemency in our State,” Garza said. “We look forward to working with the Board to present all evidence necessary for its consideration.”
A civil attorney representing Foster’s family also criticized Abbott’s move for a pardon before the sentencing and appeals process, saying it “turns the rule of law on its head.”
Jurors in the case heard from 40 witnesses and deliberated for 15 hours, attorney Quentin Brogdon said in a statement, noting state and federal courts have the power to overturn the conviction if they find it was “contrary to the rule of law.”
“Nobody, including the Governor of the State of Texas, should shut down that process, and any attempt to do so threatens the rule of law for all of us,” Brogdon said.
A judge is expected to set a sentencing hearing for Perry.
What happened in Austin
On the night of July 25, 2020, Perry, an active duty sergeant at nearby Fort Hood, was working as a rideshare driver to make extra money, his attorney Clint Broden previously said.
He carried a handgun in his car for protection, Broden said.
Perry dropped a passenger off near the rally, which he did not know was taking place, Broden added.
Several people then began beating on Perry’s car and a man carrying an assault-style rifle approached the car and motioned with the rifle for Perry to lower his window, according to Broden.
“Foster, the individual with the assault rifle, began to raise the AK-47 toward Sgt. Perry. It was only then that Sgt. Perry, who carried a handgun in his car for his own protection, fired on Foster because he believed his life to be in jeopardy,” Broden has said.
The prosecution argued Perry initiated the encounter by running a red light to turn into the crowd gathered for the police brutality protest and had previously posted on social media about shooting protesters, according to CNN affiliate KEYE.
Then-Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said officers responded to a 911 call in which the caller stated they had just shot someone who approached their car window and pointed a rifle at them.
One witness to the shooting, James Sasinowski, told CNN at the time that the driver of the car initiated the encounter by accelerating toward the protesters.
“This was intentional. It was aggressive and he accelerated into a crowd of protesters,” Sasinowski said. “He could have waited for us to pass or he could have gone slowly. We would have allowed him to go through.”
How the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles makes its recommendation
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles confirmed Monday it had received a request from Abbott for an expedited pardon review for Perry.
“The board will be commencing that investigation immediately” and will report to the governor with recommendations after the investigation is completed, Rachel Alderete, a spokesperson for the board, told CNN.
CNN has asked for more information on how long the investigation could take and whether the appeal process needs to play out before the board can make a recommendation.
According to its website, the board uses “research-based Parole Guidelines to assess offender’s likelihood for a successful parole against the risk to society,” when weighing parole decisions and also “recommends clemency matters, including pardons, to the Governor.”
Board members are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Currently, there are seven members, all of whom were either appointed or reappointed to the board during Abbott’s time in office.
The governor has the power to pardon any crime after conviction, except treason or impeachment — but only if a majority of board members approve the recommendation, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Abbott granted two pardons in 2022, eight in 2021 and seven in 2020, based on the parole board’s recommendations, according to the Texas Tribune, all for lower-level offenses like theft, providing alcohol to a minor, assault by contact, burglary of a vehicle, credit card abuse and illegally carrying a firearm.
In 2021, the board, citing procedural errors, withdrew George Floyd’s Clemency recommendation after it previously voted unanimously to recommend a full posthumous pardon of Floyd for a 2004 drug conviction, according to hearing minutes provided by the board to CNN.
What Texas’ ‘stand your ground’ law says
Abbott’s statement on his pardon request references Texas’ “stand your ground” law, which he says is one of the strongest in the country.
Stand your ground laws allow people to respond to threats with potentially lethal force without fear of criminal prosecution in a place where they have a right to be.
Not all states have such a law and those that do, word — and even enforce — them differently.
Thirty states have enacted stand your ground laws, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The Texas law says a person can use force as a means of self-defense if they reasonably believe the force is immediately necessary to protect them against another’s use or attempted use of force.
Supporters of the laws, including the National Rifle Association, say they give people the right to protect themselves, no matter where they are. Critics say the laws encourage violence and allow for legal racial bias.
CNN’s Ed Lavandera, Joe Sutton, Ashley Killough, Paradise Afshar, Michelle Watson, Rosa Flores, Camila Bernal and Zoe Sottile contributed to this report.