AUSTIN (KXAN) — Daniel Perry was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of the 2020 shooting death of a protester, and will receive credit for the time he’s already served.
The 147th District Court Judge Clifford A. Brown determined Perry’s sentence Tuesday. On Monday he heard attorneys bring forth their final witnesses and closing arguments during Perry’s sentencing hearing. The prosecution requested a minimum of 25 years, while the defense argued for 10.
“Hard work, service and sacrifice deserves our honor and it deserves to be respected,” Brown said, referring to the jury’s decision finding Perry guilty of murder.
Perry, a former Army sergeant, was convicted on April 7 of murdering Air Force veteran and protester Garrett Foster during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in downtown Austin in 2020.
Both the state and the defense did everything they could to appeal to Brown’s emotions before he decided how long Perry will spend behind bars.
“While we had hoped for a sentence of 10 years or less, now that the sentencing is complete, we are now able to turn our concentration to the appeal process,” Perry’s attorney said in a release after the sentencing. “While we respect the court greatly, we can’t agree that Daniel Perry received a fair trial. Everyone is completely devastated.”
Perry’s attorney said after the sentencing, they were now in a position to fully cooperate in the Texas pardon process.
A day after Perry’s conviction, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for his pardon, saying in a tweet he was “working as swiftly as Texas law allows regarding the pardon of Sgt. Perry.”
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles previously told KXAN it “immediately” began the review of the request.
The Board of Pardons and Paroles is still reviewing the case. There’s been no word on how soon a decision could be reached.
“In the event Sgt. Perry might ultimately receive a pardon, it would simply reflect the strong self-defense laws that exist in Texas and the political efforts of a rouge district attorney to curtail the rights of Texas citizens in an effort to appease the district attorney’s own political supporters,” Perry’s attorney said.
The appeals process could take more than a year, Perry’s attorneys told KXAN.
Travis County District Attorney, Jose Garza said justice has been served.
“Our criminal justice system is not perfect, but in this case, it worked exactly as it should,” Garza said.
According to Garza, the Board of Pardons and Paroles has agreed to let his office give its board a presentation, and will also meet with Foster’s family.
Final witnesses, arguments ahead of sentencing
On Tuesday, Perry walked into the courtroom with cuffs around his feet.
His family, as well as Fosters’, were overcome with emotions, as they’ve been in the entirety of the process.
“It’s extremely hard to be in that house,” Foster’s fiancé Whitney Mitchell said in her final appearance on the stand during Perry’s sentencing hearing. “A house that me and him [Foster] built together … his stuff is there, and there are reminders.”
Foster was Mitchell’s caregiver for more than a decade. An illness led Mitchell to lose both her arms and legs. She said, now, her friends have been helping her with everyday life.
“They have to learn how to do all of the stuff that Garrett was doing for me for a decade, and it’s hard because I had to get comfortable being vulnerable,” Mitchell said. “It’s been hard.”
During Perry’s hearing, the court got a deeper look into not what happened during Foster’s final moments, but the memories long before. These are memories Mitchell said she clings to.
“I went to Parsons, which is a design school in New York, and he [Foster] came with me,” Mitchell said. “He helped me when I couldn’t do certain things … like pinning the fabric for me, helping me go and shop for fabric. It’s hard to go back to it without him.”
The state zeroed in Perry’s social media posts and conversations including derogatory comments about Black people and the Black Lives Matter protests. It presented evidence that jurors never saw, which showed what Perry wrote, in detail.
On the defense side, several of Perry’s Army comrades vouched for his character. All — including some who are Black — said they don’t believe he’s racist and would serve with him again if they had the chance.
“He’s done more for me as my brother than anyone else in my family has,” veteran Robert Wilson said.
Wilson said Perry’s social media posts didn’t offend him. He said Perry would do anything to help him, telling the court Perry even loaned him about $2,000 for rent.
Perry’s mother Rachel spoke publicly on his behalf for the first time on Tuesday.
She told the court Perry is her first-born son, has a speech impediment and dealt with bullying growing up.
A forensic psychologist, Dr. Greg Hupp, examined Perry. He linked some of Perry’s behavior and posts to his disabilities and military culture.
“We say, ‘Well, how could he do those things? How can he say those things when his best friend is a Black man,'” Hupp said. “Daniel, his friends, colleagues and his comrades don’t see that … It’s not really fair for us to judge unless we’re in that situation.”
Dr. Hupp — who is also a veteran — said he evaluated Perry in early to mid-March 2023. During his testimony, Hupp revealed Perry has complex PTSD and autism.
The State closed the hearing by pleading with Judge Brown. They said Perry is too unstable to be out in the community.
“What [Dr. Hupp] told you, is basically that this man [Perry] is a loaded gun,” the state said to Judge Brown. “He’s going to do it again.”
The Defense asked Judge Brown to consider Perry has no previous criminal history and honorably served in the Army.
The Daniel Perry trial
During Perry’s trial, a jury was presented evidence including police body camera footage after the incident, interview footage of Perry in the Austin Police Headquarters interrogation room, 3D renderings of how close Foster was to Perry’s car, 911 calls, cell phone records, witness video, photos and more.
Over the span of eight days, the jury heard testimony from nearly 40 witnesses: Protesters, Foster’s fiancé, police officers, and the lead detective who investigated the case.
After deliberating for around 15 hours, a group of 12 jurors found Perry guilty of murder on April 8. Perry was found not guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Perry’s attorneys returned to court May 3 to ask for a new trial, but the motion was ultimately denied.
They requested the new trial based upon grounds of excluded evidence, court documents said. The defense team stated in the documents it attempted to introduce evidence to show Foster’s motive, state of mind and intent.
During the hearing on its motion, the defense said outside influence may have been a factor with a juror during the deliberation period, which lasted 16-17 hours over nearly two days.
However, the court did not find any violation and denied the motion for a new trial.