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Texas board rescinds recommendation for posthumous pardon of George Floyd

A candle and flowers next to a mural honoring George Floyd and other people of color killed by police.
Gabriel C. Pérez
A candle and flowers placed next to a mural in Austin honoring George Floyd and other people of color killed by police.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has rescinded its recommendation that Gov. Greg Abbott pardon George Floyd, the Houston man who was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis in May of 2020.

The governor’s office announced the decision Thursday, along with the board’s reversal on 24 other clemency suggestions due to what it described as procedural errors and a lack of compliance with board rules. But it appeared to leave the door open to Floyd receiving a pardon at a later date.

“The Board will review and resolve procedural errors and issues related to any pending applications in compliance with their rules,” Abbott press secretary Renae Eze said in a statement. “As a result of the Board's withdrawal of the recommendation concerning George Floyd, Governor Abbott did not have the opportunity to consider it. Governor Abbott will review all recommendations that the Board submits for consideration."

The state’s parole board, in a surprising unanimous decision, had recommended in October that Floyd be pardoned for a minor 2004 drug conviction in Houston. Days after the board's recommendation, Abbott briefly told reporters at an unrelated event that his office would analyze Floyd’s case. The governor has since been quiet on the matter.

Allison Mathis, a Houston public defender who had put the request before the parole board in May, told The Texas Tribune Thursday that she was “furious” by the decision. She said the request had already been through a compliance review and none of the seven appointed board members had raised an issue with it. She accused Abbott of playing politics.

"It definitely seems like is that he didn't want to have to vote on this, for whatever reason," Mathis said. "It just seems awfully convenient."

Floyd was arrested by embattled Houston police officer Gerald Goines in 2004 after he was found to have less than half a gram of crack cocaine. Goines said at the time that Floyd had given the drugs to an unnamed person. Floyd ultimately pled guilty and received a 10-month sentence in state jail. But Goines has since been accused of repeatedly lying or making up confidential informants to bolster his word against defendants, which was revealed after a botched, deadly raid in 2019 led to murder charges against the officer.

On Dec. 16, David Gutierrez, the presiding president of the parole board, sent Abbott's general counsel a letter stating that the board sent the governor 67 candidates for clemency in 2021 and called it an "unusually high number, not seen in almost two decades," and twice the average number of recommendations that Abbott has received in any year since taking office.

According to the letter, he asked staff to review their policies and discovered that the board had made a "number of unexplained departures from its own rules." It's was not immediately clear which potential rule the board may have violated in relation to Floyd's case. Mathis said the board did not provide specific information when they alerted her Thursday that Floyd had been pulled from the list of considerations.

Abbott’s rhetoric on Floyd’s killing has ricocheted over the past year and a half. At first, he called Floyd’s killing senseless and reprehensible, promising change and waving at a potential Texas George Floyd Act to prevent police brutality in the state.

As Floyd’s murder continued to spur a new wave of protests nationwide against police brutality and racial injustice, the Houstonian became a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement. Calls for widespread change to American policing included efforts to cut police budgets and shift law enforcement responsibilities to other government programs.

Abbott then shifted defending law enforcement funding and “backing the blue” while quieting on potential changes to policing practices.

According to a letter sent by the board to Mathis and provided to the Tribune, Mathis will not need to wait the standard two years to reapply for a full pardon. The board will review the case in the "near future," and Mathis may be required to provide additional information.

From The Texas Tribune

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