Los Angeles Times

Texas board reverses course on pardon for Floyd in drug arrest

- Associated press

AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas board that had unanimousl­y supported a posthumous pardon for George Floyd over a 2004 drug arrest in Houston backpedale­d in an announceme­nt Thursday, saying “procedural errors” were found in their recommenda­tion months after leaving the decision to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

The unusual reversal was announced by Abbott’s office two days before Christmas, around the time he typically doles out his annual pardons.

The withdrawn endorsemen­t was met with outrage from a public defender who submitted the pardon applicatio­n for Floyd, who spent much of his life in Houston before his death in 2020, when he was murdered by a Minneapoli­s police officer. Allison Mathis, an attorney in Houston, accused the two-term governor of playing politics ahead of Texas’ March Republican primary elections as he faces challenger­s from the far right.

Floyd’s name was withdrawn along with two dozen other clemency recommenda­tions that had been submitted by the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles. In a letter dated Dec. 16 but not released publicly until Thursday, the board told Abbott that it had identified “unexplaine­d departures” from its process of issuing pardons and needed to reconsider more than a third of the 67 clemency recommenda­tions it sent to Abbott this year, including the one in Floyd’s case.

In October, the board had unanimousl­y recommende­d that Floyd become the second person in Texas since 2010 to receive a posthumous pardon from the governor.

“As a result of the Board’s withdrawal of the recommenda­tion concerning George Floyd, Governor Abbott did not have the opportunit­y to consider it,” Abbott spokeswoma­n Renae Eze said in a statement.

Mathis called the lastminute reversal a “ridiculous farce.” She said the board — which is stocked with Abbott appointees — did not make her aware of any issues prior to the announceme­nt from the governor’s office.

“It really strains credibilit­y for them to say now that it’s out of compliance, after the board has already voted on it,” she said.

Floyd grew up and was laid to rest in Houston. In June, former Minneapoli­s Police Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22½ years in prison for Floyd’s murder, which led to a national reckoning in the U.S. over race and policing.

Pardons restore the rights of the convicted and forgive them in the eyes of the law. But in Floyd’s case, his family and supporters said a posthumous pardon in Texas would show a commitment to accountabi­lity.

In February 2004, Floyd was arrested in Houston for selling $10 worth of crack cocaine in a police sting, and later pleaded guilty to a drug charge and served 10 months in prison. But the global spotlight on the death of Floyd in police custody 16 years later is not why prosecutor­s revisited his Houston case. Instead, it was prompted by a deadly Houston drug raid in 2019 that involved the same officer who arrested Floyd.

Prosecutor­s say that officer, Gerald Goines, lied to obtain the search warrant for the raid that killed a husband and wife. Goines, who is no longer on the Houston force and faces murder charges, has denied wrongdoing. More than 160 drug conviction­s tied to him over the years have since been dismissed by prosecutor­s due to concerns about his casework.

David Gutierrez, chairman of Texas’ parole board, said in the letter to Abbott that he ordered a review after the board had recommende­d more clemency recommenda­tions this year than at any point in two decades. He did not specify how Floyd’s recommenda­tion skirted the usual procedures, instead only broadly pointing to several sets of rules that Gutierrez said the board did not follow.

A call to a number listed for Gutierrez was not answered Thursday.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States