TEXAS VIEW: With pardon of murderer, Abbott shows all lives don’t matter to him

After Gov. Greg Abbott sought to pardon Daniel Perry, who was convicted of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester, the most generous speculation framed his request as a cynical ploy to court extreme right-wingers.

Now that Abbott has done the unpardonable by pardoning Perry, we know this is more sinister than political calculation.

Abbott was moved to show compassion for Perry, who has made any number of racist and hate-filled comments, but not for the man he murdered, Garrett Foster.

Last Thursday, in approving the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles’ recommendation that Perry be pardoned, Abbott affirmed his belief that Perry’s life is more precious than Foster’s.

On the night of July 25, 2020, Perry, who was a U.S. Army sergeant, was moonlighting as an Uber driver in Austin when he ran a red light and drove toward a Black Lives Matter march.

A group of protesters, including Foster, a U.S. Air Force veteran who was legally carrying an AK-47, approached Perry, who rolled down his window and shot Foster five times with his legally owned .357 revolver. Perry drove away and called 911.

For eight days, a jury of Perry’s peers, Travis County residents fulfilling their civic duty, listened and evaluated evidence. They deliberated for 17 hours before reaching the unanimous decision in April 2023 that Perry was guilty of murder.

Less than 24 hours after the verdict, Abbott called for an expedited review of the case from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose members he appoints. The board began doing so even before a sentencing date had been set, even before Perry’s attorneys could begin the appeal process or submit a pardon application.

In his pardon, Abbott repeated Perry’s attorneys claim that their client shot Foster in self-defense after Foster raised his rifle at him.

This was disputed by witnesses and by Perry, who in his police interview said he shot Foster because “I believed he was going to aim at me. I didn’t want to give him a chance to aim at me.”

Abbott also cited Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to avoid criminal prosecution if they respond to threats when they are in a place where they have a right to be. But that doesn’t apply if a person provokes a threat, which is what prosecutors and witnesses said Perry did. Jurors agreed.

Beyond this, in several social media posts Perry had expressed his desire to harm Black Lives Matter protesters. Prosecutors introduced some of these posts into evidence.

On May 29, 2020, four days after George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer sparked nationwide protests, Perry sent a text message saying, “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.”

On June 1, 2020, Perry said in a Facebook message that when he is in Dallas, “no protestors go near me or my car.”

When the other man replied, “Can you catch me a negro daddy?” Perry’s response was, “That is what I am hoping.”

Perry’s bigotry preceded Floyd’s murder. In 2019, he messaged in Facebook, “Too bad we can’t get paid for hunting Muslims in Europe.”

These messages speak to the character of the man Abbott believes was worthy of a pardon and wronged by the criminal justice system.

If Lady Justice is supposed to be blind (she is not), can anyone imagine a scenario in which Abbott would have pardoned Foster had he shot and killed Perry? Of course not.

But in his pardon of Perry, he misrepresents the facts of the case and launches attacks on Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza, whom Abbott accuses of not trying “to see that justice is done.”

But it’s Abbott who has undermined justice.

How tragically ironic that the murder of a Black Lives Matter protester, who was white, illustrates that all lives don’t matter for Abbott, that they don’t have equal meaning. Apparently, the value of a life is situational and dependent on how it aligns with political ideology.

This is who Greg Abbott is. This is his character. These are his values.

We will say what Abbott won’t: Garrett Foster’s life mattered.

San Antonio Express-News