A US army sergeant and ride-share service driver has been found guilty of the murder of a protester during a Black Lives Matter rally in 2020 in Austin, Texas.
After an eight-day trial and two days of verdict deliberations, a jury in Travis county, Texas, found 33-year-old Daniel Perry guilty of murdering air force veteran Garrett Foster, 28. Perry is white, as was Foster.
While the jury also found Perry not guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the murder conviction left him facing a maximum of life imprisonment. He could be sentenced as soon as next week, according to the local television news outlet KXAN.
However, Texas’s Republican extremist governor Greg Abbott said on Saturday on Twitter that he was already working on pardoning Perry from his conviction, which he called an attempted jury nullification of Texas’s self-defense law.
Perry was driving for Uber in downtown Austin where Foster was participating in a Black Lives Matter rally on the night of the shooting on 25 July 2020. According to police, Perry stopped and honked at the protesters as they walked through the streets before driving his car into the crowd, the Texas Tribune reported.
Perry’s attorneys argued their client was forced to shoot Foster five times in self-defense after Foster approached his car with an AK-47 rifle. Meanwhile, prosecutors contended Perry had other options to confront the situation, including driving away before he fired his own gun at Foster.
There were no passengers in Perry’s car at the time of the shooting, which unfolded during nationwide demonstrations prompted by the murder of George Floyd by an on-duty police officer in Minneapolis.
In court, prosecutors brought up Facebook messages that Perry sent prior to Foster’s killing.
In one message, Perry wrote: “No protesters go near me or my car” and “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters,” the Austin television news outlet KTBC reported.
Another message that Perry sent on 31 May 2020 said: “I might have to kill a few people on my way to work they are rioting outside my apartment complex.” A few days later, Perry commented on a Facebook post of a video titled “Protesters Looters Get Shot San Antonio Texas”, writing, “glad someone finally did something”.
During the trial, Austin police detective William Bursley testified about evidence found on Perry’s cell phone. Part of the evidence included online searches for “protest tonight”, “protesters in Seattle gets shot”, “riot shootouts” and “protests in Dallas live”.
“This is an age-old story about a man who couldn’t keep his anger under control,” said prosecutor Guillermo Gonzalez, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “It’s not about police, and it’s not about protest marchers.
“Garrett Foster had every right to go up to him and see what the heck was going on and he had every right to do it with a deadly weapon.”
Meanwhile, Perry’s attorney, Doug O’Connell, argued that the protesters “didn’t know anything about Perry when they attacked the car and boxed it in”.
“Daniel had no choice, and that could have happened to anyone,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell’s argument has a key ally in Abbott, with the governor saying he would not allow jurors to nullify Texas’s self-defense law. Abbott said on Saturday that the self-defense law in Texas was one of the strongest in the US, and he said he would defend it by asking the state board which handles such matters to give a pardon to Perry and to expedite the process.
After the verdict, Foster’s father, Stephen Foster, said: “We are happy with the verdict and also very sorry for [Perry’s] family as well.”
Travis county’s district attorney José Garza, for his part, said: “Our hearts continue to break for the Foster family. We hope this verdict brings closure and peace to the victim’s family.”
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