DALLAS — While most of Texas waits for an Austin judge to set a sentencing date for convicted murderer Daniel Perry, Gov. Greg Abbott decided he could wait no longer.
The Republican, after coming under pressure from conservatives such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson, announced he would pardon Perry as soon as a request from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles hit his desk, something widely expected since the governor appoints those members.
While conservatives cheered, many others, particularly in the legal system, were outraged and confused.
“It's simply outrageous for one individual who has not heard a word of testimony to try to substitute their judgment for that of 12 jurors who spent eight days listening to 40 witnesses and then deliberated for a significant period of time before reaching a verdict,” former Travis County Criminal Court Judge David Wahlberg said on Y’all-itics.
A jury unanimously convicted Perry, an Army Sergeant, of murder in the fatal shooting of Garrett Foster during a Black Lives Matter protest in Austin. But the jury found Perry not guilty of a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Perry, some conservative commentators and now the Governor, have all argued Perry acted in self-defense three years ago.
But the jury didn’t buy the argument after listening to days of evidence and testimony.
And within hours of jurors’ decision, Abbott announced his intent to seek a pardon.
“I think it clearly demonstrates that the conservatives have, by and large, abandoned the idea that they support law and order,” Judge Wahlberg told us. “I mean, we're seeing that across the country in a variety of different venues.”
Jennifer Laurin is an expert on Texas criminal law and The Wright C. Murrow professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
She says while the Governor has the authority to seek a pardon, she thinks his stated reason for doing so is wrong.
And Laurin calls the Governor’s decision to seek a pardon a slap in the face to the jury system in Texas and a jab to jurors themselves.
“And I worry, frankly, about the degree to which this kind of posturing and the timing of it could really serve as kind of a deterrent to jury service or to full and free deliberations of jurors, particularly in, you know, Travis County and other sort of blue counties that would perhaps be the likely targets of this kind of activity,” Laurin told us.
Wahlberg, who lost a Democratic primary in 2020 and is currently a senior District Judge who hears cases by appointment, agrees that the governor’s announcement could have a chilling effect on jurors in the future.
“If jurors know that that some elected officials is going to second guess their decisions without any knowledge of the facts, without having heard a word of the evidence, that is going to discourage people from coming in and serving as jurors,” argued Wahlberg.
Judge Wahlberg says this is a case you could spend an entire law school class, a semester’s worth of class, talking about. Or just listen to this latest episode of Y’all-itics. Cheers!