Apr 11, 2023 - News

Gov. Abbott's pardon talk contradicts earlier statements

Gov. Greg Abbott gesturing with his right hand while talking at a microphone

Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference last month. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Gov. Greg Abbott's recent push to pardon the man convicted of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester contradicts previous statements he's made about the importance of juries.

Driving the news: An Austin jury deliberated for 17 hours over two days before convicting Daniel Perry on Friday after an eight-day trial.

  • Fox News host Tucker Carlson dedicated a segment to Perry's conviction later that night. Citing Texas' "Stand Your Ground" laws of self-defense, Abbott announced Saturday that he has asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to determine whether Perry should be pardoned in the 2020 death of Garrett Foster, who grew up in Plano.

The big picture: The governor's request veers from his norm. His pardons are typically for lower-level offenses like theft and burglary that have been reviewed by the board, and he usually announces them at the end of the year.

  • And, Abbott historically has pardoned only a handful of the cases the board recommends to him.

Flashback: In 2018, the governor made the unusual decision to commute the death sentence of Thomas Bartlett Whitaker, who plotted the murders of his mother and brother.

  • His father, who survived the attack, asked for clemency, saying the execution would victimize him again. Whitaker remains in prison without the possibility of parole.

The intrigue: After that decision, Abbott said he has "the utmost regard for the role that juries and judges play in our legal system."

  • "The role of the Governor is not to second-guess the court process or re-evaluate the law and evidence. Instead, the Governor's role under the Constitution is distinct from the judicial function."
  • When Axios requested an interview on the topic, an Abbott spokesperson declined to make him available.

Details: Last year, Abbott pardoned two people, including a Collin County woman who had been fined $269 in 2015 for assault by contact.

  • In 2021, the governor pardoned eight people, including two from North Texas, both of whom had received probation for theft.

Meanwhile: Abbott and other Texas Republican lawmakers believe that Perry acted in self-defense when he killed Foster during an altercation at a downtown Austin protest in 2020.

The other side: "For the first time since I lost Garrett, I felt some sense of justice and relief when the jury rendered its verdict," Whitney Mitchell, Foster's partner, said in a statement, per the Austin American-Statesman.

  • "But the governor has immediately taken that away since he announced there are two legal systems in Texas: one for those with power, like Mr. Perry, and one for everyone else."
  • She added, "I hope the governor never again claims that he stands for victims' rights."
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