The jury has spoken and their decision was unanimous…GUILTY!
Former Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger, 31, was found guilty of the murder of 26-year-old Botham Jean on Tuesday, October 1st, in a case that has riveted the nation since his murder over a year ago on September 6, 2018.
The jury had a choice of either convicting her of murder, manslaughter or choosing to acquit. After hearing all the evidence and testimony, they chose to convict her for murder.
Imagine being a Black man chilling in your own apartment, sitting on your couch relaxed in some shorts and a T-shirt, eating ice cream, watching television, when all of a sudden a White woman enters into your apartment uninvited. This is exactly what happened when an unarmed Black man, Botham Jean, found himself shot in cold blood in his own apartment, by a White Dallas Police Officer named Amber Guyger, who entered the wrong apartment.
What would you do? How would you respond? Would you be scared?
Regardless of your response, Jean did not survive that evening, and Guyger pleaded not guilty of killing him in his own apartment, claiming that she feared for her life because she thought she was actually entering her own apartment, and claiming that she shot Jean because she thought he was an intruder in her apartment. Mind you, it was uncovered during the trial that Guyger actually lived on the third floor, versus Jean who lived on the fourth floor, directly above her.
One of Guyger’s key points for her defense was that she was tired after having worked a more than 12-hour shift for the Dallas Police Department, before coming home and parking on the fourth floor garage at her apartment complex. She claims that as she thought she was entering her apartment that night, she heard what appeared to be someone in the apartment and as she opened the door she saw a “silhouetted figure,” which of course was Jean.
Guyger claimed that she gave instructions for the person, who happened to be Jean, to put their hands in the air, but let off two shots because she was in fear of her life as the “silhouetted figure” started allegedly coming towards her. Out of the two shots that were fired, one of them ripped through Jean’s chest, piercing his heart and fatally killing him.
Several other critical details about the case came out during this trial that proved to be disturbing.
One of those details involved Guyger’s actions leading up to her coming to Jean’s apartment, instead of her own. During a critically important cross-examination, prosecutors were able to bring forth information revealing that Guyger was actually sending sexually-charged text messages to her fellow police partner, Martin Rivera, at the time. Apparently, Guyger was having a sexual relationship with Rivera. Not only was Guyger sexting her police partner, she was also on the phone with him before the shooting and after the shooting of Jean.
The defense tried to make the messages and the communication appear as if they were no big deal, but it seemingly proved vital in the prosecutors’ contention that Guyger was clearly not as tired from work as she had claimed, because if she was, she would not have been on the phone making plans to see Rivera later that night for a sexual encounter.
On top of being on the wrong floor of her apartment complex, prosecutors also pointed out that a red doormat that was located directly in front of Jean’s apartment was another key indication that Guyger was at the wrong apartment.
One of the Jean family’s attorneys, Lee Merritt, shared several key details about some of the happenings regarding the trial via social media that have brought forth other questions and concerns regarding the overall investigation, the Dallas Police Department and Guyger’s former police partner.
On September 23rd, Merritt shared this information regarding Guyger and Rivera on Facebook:
“We learned today that Amber Guyger and her partner exchanged texts before, during and after #BothamJeans murder. Those texts were subsequently deleted. This is a crime. Destruction of evidence is a felony. Martin Rivera should not be a police officer.”
On September 25th, Merritt also shared the following on Facebook about Guyger:
“Evidence in court today proved what we already knew. #AmberGuyger received special treatment from the very beginning. When she should have been placed in handcuffs, instead she got handshakes and hugs. The officers responsible for gathering evidence were busy covering for her.”
The prosecutors pointed out what they argued was selfishness on her part, as she was trying to protect herself. They also pointed out a lack of concern for Botham Jean’s life, in that after the shooting, Guyger failed to render any aid to him as he was on the floor dying, by performing proper CPR or by using the first aid kit she was carrying in her backpack.
Many community activists and people watching the case expressed concerns about the potential outcome, especially considering the fact that the judge in the case, state District Judge Tammy Kemp, informed the defense and prosecutors that jurors would be allowed to factor in the controversial stand your ground law, also known as the “castle doctrine,” in their deliberations.
Of course, the stand your ground law, which was controversially used by George Zimmerman after his murder of Trayvon Martin, gives an individual the right to use self-defense in the form of deadly force when it comes to their property. Because Guyger “thought” she was actually in her own home, her attorneys wanted to use that argument that she was justified in killing Jean in self-defense, because she was in fear for her life in what she “thought” was her own home.
The language the jury was charged with related to their task of deciding the verdict, was:
“A person commits the offense of murder if the person 1) intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual or 2) intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
“Our law provides a person commits the offense of manslaughter if she recklessly causes the death of an individual. A person acts recklessly or is reckless with respect to the result of her conduct when she is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.”
The decision to convict for murder carries a potential life sentence, and the jury was also given the option by Judge Kemp of convicting for manslaughter, which usually carries a sentence of anywhere between two and 20 years. They could have also chosen to acquit Guyger.
In taking all of those things into consideration, jurors only took several hours to deliberate and come back with a guilty verdict of murder against Guyger.
Because she was convicted of murder, Guyger faced a sentence of 5 to 9 years going into the sentencing phase. In Texas, if you are sentenced to 5 to 10 years, you are allowed to post bail and appeal right away, which means you would not have to serve any jail time while awaiting your appeal to be heard in the appellate courts. If you are sentenced to 11 or more years, that means you would have to sit in jail while awaiting your appeal to be heard in the appellate courts.
After the announcement of the verdict, Allison Jean, who is Botham Jean’s mother, took to Facebook to share her first thoughts with the world, writing:
“Yes Lord! You never failed me yet! #JusticeforBotham.”
It is almost certain that Guyger will appeal and have another day in court. Until that day, justice appears to have finally been served for the family of an unarmed Black person who has been killed by a member of law enforcement, especially one relaxing in their own home.