Amber Guyger, Dallas Cop, Found Guilty of Murdering Botham Jean
“Nothing will bring Botham back, but today his family has found some measure of justice.”
Amber Guyger, the 31-year-old Dallas police officer who fatally shot 26-year-old Botham Jean in his own apartment when she walked into his apartment, allegedly mistaking it as her own, was found guilty of murder Tuesday morning by a Dallas County jury.
Jean’s death and Guyger’s trial resonated across the nation, sparking outrage and conversations about police violence and race. Jean, who is black, was sitting on his couch eating ice cream when Guyger, who is white, arrived at his unlocked apartment door. Guyger lived one floor below Jean and parked on the wrong floor after finishing her shift. Thinking she was at her own apartment door, Guyger claimed she mistook Jean for a burglar and responded by shooting and killing him on scene.
The trial began September 23 despite a request by the Dallas Police Officer Association to delay the trial for 60 to 90 days in lieu of the Texas State Fair, claiming the Dallas department was stretched thin. A request earlier this summer to change the trial venue outside of Dallas County was also denied by Judge Tammy Kemp.
According to the Dallas Morning News, throughout the trial, Guyger’s defense team portrayed the shooting as the end result of a “series of horrible mistakes” leading her to shoot Jean out of fear for her life. The defense attempted to present evidence showing that the apartment building where Jean and Guyger resided had a confusing layout and other residents had also mistakenly parked on the wrong floor.
Texas Ranger David Armstrong, who led the investigation into the shooting testified that his team interviewed 297 of the apartment building’s 349 residents and that 46 of them told investigators they had walked to the wrong floor and put their key in someone else’s door, according to The Dallas Morning News.
On Monday Judge Kemp ruled that the jury was allowed to consider Texas’ “Castle Doctrine“, a stand your ground type law which allows the use of deadly force if you are in your “castle” – be it your home, car or place of business.
Attorneys for the Jean family, Lee Merritt and Ben Crump, argued self-defense was not a justification for the shooting because Crump never posed a threat and that Guyger had other options besides shooting Jean. The prosecution questioned why Guyger didn’t call for backup when she suspected someone was in her apartment and why she didn’t notice Jean’s bright red doormat located outside his door. Guyger had also claimed to have performed CPR on Jean though a lack of blood on her off-duty police uniform suggested she did not.
The Jean’s family lawyers also presented bullet trajectory evidence from the medical examiner showing Guyger fired downward at Jean indicating he was either sitting, lying or attempting to get up when she fired – a finding which conflicted with Guyger’s claim that she feared for her life as Jean rushed her.
Other evidence presented during the trial included sexual text messages between Guyger and her married partner Martin Rivera. The two had a sexual relationship and were on the phone as Guyger drove home and parked in her apartment building.
According to the Dallas Morning News, in a text to Rivera several hours before the shooting, she wrote she was “super horny today.” Then later that night at about 9:30 p.m. she sent Rivera a Snapchat message that said, “Wanna touch?”
At 9:55 p.m. Guyger ended the call with Rivera and walked towards Jean’s apartment who would be dead three minutes later.
Guyger’s conviction makes her the first Dallas police officer convicted of murder since the 1970s. A charge of murder in Texas warrants a sentence of five to 99 years or life in prison. More testimony will be presented for the sentencing phase of the trial.
After the decision was reached Lee Merritt, one Jean’s family attorneys said in a statement, “Nothing will bring Botham back, but today his family has found some measure of justice. What happened on September 6, 2018, is clear to everyone: This officer saw a black man and shot, without reason and without justification.”