Texas Board Pulls Back Unanimous Pardon Recommendation for George Floyd Drug Arrest

The Texas board that previously voted unanimously in support of a posthumous pardon of a 2004 drug charge for George Floyd withdrew the recommendation along with several other clemency recommendations over "procedural errors," Governor Greg Abbott's office said on Thursday.

The recommendation of Floyd's pardon, and at least 20 other recommendations, were withdrawn in a letter dated December 16, citing "unexplained departures" from the usual process that the board discovered, requiring the recommendations to be reconsidered.

The proposal to pardon Floyd was connected to the arrest of a former Houston police officer, Gerald Goines, who was the arresting officer when Floyd was detained for selling $10 of crack in a police sting, which led to a guilty plea and 10-month prison sentence for Floyd.

Floyd spent much of his life in Houston, and was buried there last year.

In 2019, Goines allegedly lied to obtain a search warrant that led to a drug raid that killed two people, a raid for which Goines is facing murder charges.

Since the raid, more than 160 drug convictions connected to Goines have been dismissed over concerns about his work on the cases.

In October, the parole board unanimously recommended that Floyd receive the pardon, a decision that had been in Abbott's hands for over two months before it was withdrawn on Thursday.

George Floyd Pardon, Texas Parole Board
The recommendation for a posthumous pardon for George Floyd over a 2004 drug charge in Houston was withdrawn over "procedural errors," Governor Greg Abbott's office said on Thursday. Above, a button that reads "I can't breathe," adorns the jacket of a mourner before Floyd's funeral on June 9, 2020, in Houston. Godofredo A. Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP Pool File

The unusual reversal announced by Abbott's office two days before Christmas—around the time he typically doles out pardons—drew outrage from a public defender who had submitted the pardon application for Floyd, who died in 2020 at the knees of a white Minneapolis police officer.

"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.

Allison Mathis, a Houston public defender who submitted the pardon application on behalf of Floyd, called the last-minute reversal a "ridiculous farce."

"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.

In June, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison for Floyd's murder.

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.

Goines, who is no longer on the Houston force and faces murder charges, has denied wrongdoing.

Texas' parole board—whose members were all appointed by Abbott—unanimously recommended the pardon for Floyd, and the district attorney in Houston also urged the governor to act.

Abbott, who is up for re-election in 2022 and faces primary challengers from the far right, had for months given no indication whether he would grant the pardon in the months since the parole board put the recommendation on his desk. The prolonged silence raised questions by Mathis and others over whether political calculations were at play in Abbott's decision. His office did not respond to those charges.

Abbott attended Floyd's memorial service last year in Houston, where he met with the family and floated the idea of a George Floyd Act that would take aim at police brutality. But when the Texas Legislature convened months later, Abbott was silent over policing reforms pushed by Democrats and made police funding a priority.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

George Floyd, Texas Parole Board, Greg Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott's office announced on Thursday that the state parole board that previously unanimously approved the recommendation that George Floyd be posthumously pardoned for a 2004 drug arrest in Houston withdrew the recommendation last week over "procedural errors." Above, Abbott speaks during the Houston Region Business Coalition's monthly meeting on October 27, 2021, in Houston. Brandon Bell/Getty Images