Opening statements begin in murder trial of Sgt. Daniel Perry
AUSTIN, Texas - In a packed courtroom, opening statements and witness testimony picked up for the murder trial of Daniel Perry. Perry is accused of killing Black Lives Matter protester Garrett Foster in 2020. If Perry is found guilty by a jury, he could face life in prison.
The trial began with Perry maintaining his plea of not guilty of the incident on July 25, 2020.
The opening statements kicked off with the state who explained to the jury Perry intentionally instigated what happened that night.
"The evidence will show that Perry instigated the events that happened that night through his unreasonable actions and conduct and, in fact, Perry that engaged in the unlawful use of force by driving his car into the protest march," said the state.
It was revealed by the state, Garrett Foster attended BLM protests frequently in 2020 with his fiancé, a quadruple-paraplegic Black woman.
Perry was an Army Sergeant stationed at Fort Hood who was in Austin to drive for Uber.
The state says Perry claims he drove into the crowd accidentally that night while he was texting and driving, but the state questioned the validity of that claim since the last text was two minutes before he drove into the intersection the incident happened in.
The defense claims Perry shot Foster in self-defense because he was scared for his life.
"[Perry] believed he had no choice, regrettably, but he had no choice. He was in danger of being killed two tenths of a second. He had no choice but to use his gun to defend himself and that's why he carried the gun in his Uber," said the defense.
After opening statements, the jury heard from five witnesses. The first witness was a 25-year-old independent videographer who livestreamed the protest in 2020. He told the jury the protest remained peaceful, but the crowd did walk on the street and halt traffic despite being directed by police to stay on the sidewalks.
RELATED: Jury selection starts in murder trial for Sgt. Daniel Perry who allegedly shot, killed BLM protester
The witness says it was when the crowd hit 4th and Congress Avenue when he saw a vehicle drove into the crowd at a high rate of speed. He claims his immediate reaction was to run over and see if anyone was hurt. He heard a vehicle honking, thumping, and then he heard gunfire. The witness claims he did not see who shot off the gunfire because he ran away to take cover.
The defense brought up a separate incident with protesters and the witness in October 2020 that sent him to the hospital with a concussion. He claims those were not the same protesters there that night. An argument ensued between him and the defense before being shut down by the judge.
The next witness was a ride-share driver who was stopped at the intersection of 4th and Congress when the incident happened. His dashcam footage was presented as evidence to the jury. He claims he saw the group of protesters on Lavaca before then, and called 911 about a man holding a rifle. He noted the man looked like he was ready to raise the gun, but did not see the man point the gun at anybody.
The second 911 call came after he witnessed the incident on Congress Avenue. He says he heard six or seven gunshots and the crowd went into instant chaos. He was worried about his safety and drove off.
The defense asked the witness, "if you had a gun, would you have pulled it out?" The witness responded looking directly at Perry saying, "I would probably be sitting where he is right now."
Three more witnesses were called to the stand to testify. This included a photographer, a second ride-share driver, and a participant in the protest.
The trial is expected to last two weeks. The jury is expected to hear from several other witnesses including the lead detective in the case and Foster’s fiancé.