Amber Guyger Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Murder of Botham Jean
Local protests break out at the leniency with the possibility of only serving 5 years
October 2, 2019
A Dallas County jury sentenced Wednesday former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who was convicted of the murder of Botham Jean, to 10 years in prison on an emotional day in court that included an embrace of Guyger by Jean's younger brother.
The jury found Guyger guilty of murder on Tuesday, in a case in which she said she mistook Jean's apartment for her own.
Closing statements concluded Wednesday afternoon, as the jury deliberated for less than two hours before they reached a unanimous decision on her sentence.
People outside of the courtroom reacted angrily to the sentence given to Amber Guyger in the death of Botham Jean, believing it was too lenient. But Jean's brother addressed her directly from the witness stand.
Brandt Jean told Guyger that his brother would have wanted her to turn her life over to Christ, and that if she can ask God for forgiveness, she will get it.
"I love you as a person. I don't wish anything bad on you," he said to the 31-year-old Guyger, before adding, "I don't know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug?"
The judge said he could, and Brandt and Guyger stood up, met in front of the bench and embraced while Guyger cried. Judge Tammy Kemp also hugged Guyger before she was led from the courtroom.
Jurors could have sentenced the former officer to up to life in prison or as little as two years, but prosecutors asked them to send her to prison for 28 years, which is how old Botham Jean would have been if he were still alive.
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, a former trial judge, called Brandt Jean's embrace of Guyger an "an amazing act of healing and forgiveness that is rare in today's society ... especially for many of our leaders."
If the 18-year-old brother "can heal and express healing in that fashion, in his words and in his deeds, I would hope that the greater community, not just Dallas but all of Texas and all of the United States, could gain a message from that," he told reporters.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issued a statement saying he was "deeply moved" and would "never, ever forget the incredible examples of love, faith and strength personified by Botham, Brandt and the entire Jean family."
Guyger's attorney asked jurors to show mercy, pointing to the good she did for people, including some who spoke at the hearing.
Among them was officer Cathy Odhiambo, who described Guyger as a longtime friend who dreamed of being a police officer when they waited tables at a TGI Fridays. She said the two of them went through the academy and them came through the police ranks together.
"Everybody that knows her knows that Amber is the sweetest person," Odhiambo said.
Odhiambo was not asked about text messages that prosecutors said indicated a lack of sensitivity by Guyger toward black people. However, another fellow officer, Thomas MacPherson, said some of those texts sounded "out of character" for Guyger, whom he described as "someone you could depend on."
When a sniper opened fire on police during a rally in downtown Dallas three years ago, killing five of them, Guyger was "so brave," MacPherson said. He said the two of them ran toward the gunfire and helped panicked citizens along the way.
LaWanda Clark said she met Guyger when the former officer busted a drug house, and that it helped change her life. She was struggling with a crack cocaine addiction. Guyger, while ticketing her, told her it could be the catalyst for turning around her life. She said Guyger treated her as a person, not an addict, and that she's now sober.
As Clark spoke, Guyger's lawyers showed jurors a photo of Guyger attending Clark's graduation from a community drug treatment program.
Jean's father told jurors about how his son's death upended his life back in St. Lucia.
Bertrum Jean said that after his son left their Caribbean island for college in Arkansas, he would call home every Sunday after church to catch up with the tightly knit family. Now, he said, his Sundays "have been destroyed."
"How could we have lost Botham? Such a sweet boy. He tried his best to live a good honest life. He loved God. He loved everyone. How could this happen to him?" the father said, breaking into tears.
Guyger's mother, Karen Guyger, was the first witness the defense called Wednesday.
Karen Guyger said Amber Guyger is the youngest of three children, and defense attorneys showed several family photos to the jury.
Upon questioning from defense attorneys, Karen Guyger testified that her daughter had been sexually assaulted by an adult male when she was a young child.
Wednesday's testimony started with Alexis Stossel, a friend of Botham Jean's from college. She recalled how she explained her friendship with Jean to her husband to illustrate how close they were.
"I love you, but this man is going to be in my life forever," Stossel said she told her husband. "He's going to be a part of us forever. I can't imagine living life without my other person."
A high school friend who played in an all-female mariachi band with Amber Guyger said the former Dallas police officer feels "immense remorse" for fatally shooting a neighbor in his own apartment.
Maribel Chavez testified that she met Guyger in ninth grade during orchestra practice. They later went on to play in a mariachi band, with Guyger playing violin and trumpet.
Chavez said Guyger is typically bubbly and extroverted, but that since she killed her neighbor, Botham Jean, in September 2018, "It's like you shut her light off."
She described her friend as selfless, caring and a protector of those around her.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Jean's mother, Allison Jean, criticized the investigation into her son's death and the police training to shoot to kill.
If Guyger "was trained not to shoot in the heart, my son would be alive today. He was no threat to her. He had no reason to be a threat to her, because he was in his own apartment," Allison Jean said.
On Tuesday, jurors heard testimony from Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother. "I cannot sleep. I can't eat. It's just been the most terrible time for me," she told the court.
Botham Jean's family told the jury the story of his life, his accomplishments and the legacy he left behind. Prosecutors told jurors more about Amber Guyger as well.
The state presented racially-insensitive text messages sent while Guyger was working a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade. The team also presented social media posts that prosecutors say give a glimpse into Guyger's mind.
Those posts included one from Pinterest which reads, "I wear all black to remind you not to mess with me, because I'm already dressed for your funeral."
Her defense attorneys can argue that she deserves a light sentence because she acted out of confusion and fear that she had found an intruder in her home.