Juror: Texas governor’s rush to pardon shooter a ‘travesty’
Apr 12, 2023, 1:24 PM
(Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — An alternate juror in the trial of a U.S. Army sergeant convicted of murder said Wednesday that Gov. Greg Abbott’s rush for a pardon is an “egregious overreach” to wipe aside the jury’s unanimous decision over a 2020 shooting during a Black Lives Matter protest.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Jere Dowell said prosecutors put on a convincing case against Daniel Perry, who at the time of the shooting was working as a ride-share driver in downtown Austin.
As an alternate, Dowell did not have a vote in convicting Perry but said she was in the room for deliberations and that she agreed with the verdict handed down Friday.
“I just think it’s a travesty,” Dowell said of Abbott already seeking a pardon.
Her comments are the first time a juror has spoken publicly since Abbott, a Republican, announced Saturday he would use the power of his office and seek to wipe away the verdict, which legal experts have called highly unusual and prosecutors condemned as troubling.
Abbott made his intentions known on Twitter less than 24 hours after the verdict and amid outrage from conservative voices on social media and television over the conviction.
“I just thought it was an egregious overreach of power,” Dowell said. “It’s undermining due process. It’s undermining democracy. I was upset, honestly.”
Perry was on active duty and working as a ride-share driver when he shot and killed Garrett Foster, 28, who had been legally carrying an AK-47 during a protest through Austin’s downtown.
Perry is still awaiting sentencing from a judge. He faces up to life in prison.
Dowell, who said she has not previously supported the three-term governor politically, said she worried Abbott wading into the case could cause other jurors to second-guess their decision.
“If your governor is coming out and saying you made the wrong decision, that may make you think twice about what you said or what you felt,” she told AP.
The AP has attempted to reach all jurors who served during the weeklong trial in Austin. Others have declined to speak about the case or not returned messages.
Spokespersons for Abbott did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday.
The trial had received little national attention prior to Friday’s verdict and Abbott had not previously commented on the case publicly. He has has not elaborated on how he reached his conclusion about Perry’s case, and his office on Monday referred questions to his statement on Twitter.
The encounter leading up to the shooting began when Perry turned onto a street and into one of the demonstrations that swept the country after Minneapolis police killed of George Floyd.
In video that was streamed live on Facebook, a car can be heard honking amid the downtown crowd. Then, several shots ring out, and protesters begin screaming and scattering.
Perry drove off, later calling police to report the shooting, and officers arrived to find Foster shot. What led up to the gunfire was a core question in the trial that resulted in Perry’s conviction.
Witnesses testified that Foster never raised his rifle at Perry, and prosecutors said the sergeant could have driven off rather than opening fire with a handgun. Perry didn’t testify. But his defense attorneys have said Foster pointed his gun at the driver and that the shooting was self-defense.
“I look forward to approving the Board’s pardon as soon as it hits my desk,” Abbott tweeted Saturday.
Travis County District Attorney José Garza, whose office prosecuted Perry, said Tuesday he requested to meet with the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles and present evidence.
Associated Press writers Paul J. Weber, Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, Jim Vertuno and researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.