As Texas Governor Seeks Pardon For Protester Killing, The Jury Faces New Scrutiny

A U.S. Army sergeant accused of fatally shooting a protester during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in the summer of 2020, Daniel S. Perry, was the subject of a 17-hour jury trial last week in a crowded court conference room in Texas.

They questioned whether Mr. Perry had acted in self-defense against the demonstrator, who was toting an AK-47-style rifle, as they watched video of the altercation from the scene on the streets of Austin, the state’s capital.

One juror eventually left in tears as it became apparent that she was the last holdout. She came back and voted with the others to find him guilty of murder.

“It was just so stressful,” said Jere Dowell, an alternate juror who observed the proceedings but did not take part in them. Another juror remarked, “It was simply a horrible, sad circumstance for both parties. “I was relieved when it was over.”

It wasn’t, though.

Instead, defense attorneys and, at Gov. Greg Abbott’s request, investigators from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, have turned their attention to the jury’s verdict and the process by which it was made.

Investigators from Mr. Perry’s defense team have contacted jurors and visited several of them at home in the days following the judgment announcement on Friday in an effort to demonstrate that at least one of them erroneously relied on evidence not provided during the trial.

The fresh initiatives followed the governor’s Saturday comments that the verdict was incorrect and that he would pardon Mr. Perry for the murder.

The legal and political wrangling shone a bright national spotlight on a case that already included some of the most well-known political flashpoints in contemporary American life: the demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd in 2020; the increasing prevalence of military-style rifles on the streets; and the legal protections provided to armed individuals who stand their ground and fire at threats rather than flee.

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The pardon request made by Mr. Abbott before Mr. Perry had even received a sentence was inconsistent with the governor’s prior actions.

Within hours of the ruling, the governor intervened and claimed that the jury had broken the law at the urging of conservative commentators like Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. He claimed on Twitter that Texas has one of the toughest “Stand Your Ground” rules for self-defense that cannot be overturned by a judge or an activist district attorney.

Before the governor can award a pardon, the pardon board, whose members are appointed by him, must make a formal recommendation.

The board recommended a posthumous pardon for Mr. Floyd in October 2021 for a minor narcotics offense in Houston; the governor responded by saying he would investigate the matter. The board changed its recommendation few months later.

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