The Texas Rangers arrested Amber Guyger and charged her with manslaughter, not murder, WFAA is reporting. Guyger walked into the wrong apartment, after she finished her shift with the Dallas Police Department, and is suspected of shooting and killing Botham Shem Jean. Jean was in his apartment and, according to some sources, answered the door when Guyger demanded to be allowed inside, thinking she was at her own home. Why wasn’t she charged with murder? Officials haven’t explained exactly why the decision was made yet, but a quick look at Texas law can help uncover some possibilities. This is a developing story.
Amber Guyger, the Dallas cop who is suspected of shooting and killing Botham Jean, has been arrested and is being held in Kaufman County Jail. But she’s charged with manslaughter, not murder, which has left some people leaving angry responses. It took the police almost two days to release her name, and then additional time after the Texas Rangers took over the case for her to be arrested. What happened?
Murder Charges Requires Intent, While Manslaughter Charges Require Recklessness
In Texas, you can either initially charge a suspect with murder or manslaughter. So this essentially means that to charge Guyger with murder, officials would need to believe that they could prove in a court of law, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she intentionally or knowingly caused Botham Jean’s death, rather than recklessly caused his death.
Here are the definitions of manslaughter vs. murder in the Texas penal code:
Texas Penal Code 19.04 – Manslaughter:
(a) A person commits an offense if he recklessly causes the death of an individual.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.
Meanwhile, Texas Penal Code – 19.02 Murder:
(b) A person commits an offense if he:
(1) intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
(2) intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or
(3) commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
(c) Except as provided by Subsection (d), an offense under this section is a felony of the first degree.
(d) At the punishment stage of a trial, the defendant may raise the issue as to whether he caused the death under the immediate influence of sudden sudden passion arising from an adequate cause. If the defendant proves the issue in the affirmative by a preponderance of the evidence, the offense is a felony of the second degree.
In Texas law, the big distinction between murder and manslaughter is found in the defendant’s intent. To be charged with murder, officials must believe that the defendant “knowingly and willingly” caused the death. However, if the defendant caused a death while intending to commit a different felony, then a murder charge might also still be brought.
To get a manslaughter conviction, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (in this case Guyger) recklessly caused someone else’s death. But to prove murder, the prosecutor must prove there was actual intent, and it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. (You can read more about the differences on The Medlin Law Firm’s website.)
If you’re wondering why capital murder isn’t being considered, that’s because Texas has some very strict laws when it comes to capital murder charges. Killing a police officer or a firefighter, being paid to commit a murder, or killing more than one person can bring capital murder charges, for example.
So it appears that officials believe they have enough evidence to bring manslaughter charges, showing that she recklessly caused Jean’s death, and not murder charges, which would require proving that she had an intent to kill. Of course, the final decision will be up to a court of law.
The Texas Rangers Took Over the Investigation, But the Dallas PD Had Considered a Manslaughter Warrant Too
The entire process took a long enough time that some people were starting to complain about it. The shooting was Thursday night and Guyger wasn’t identified until Saturday. Then the Dallas Police Department was considering a manslaughter warrant, but the Texas Rangers took over. (This is normal in a case where the police would be investigating one of their own for a serious crime.)
Guyger was arrested in Kaufman County on Sunday and her bond is set for $300,000. A warrant was issued by the 7th District Court in Dallas County, CBS DFW reported.
S. Lee Merritt is the attorney representing Botham’s family. In a press release on Sunday, he said his team had new evidence that he wasn’t ready to release, but they were working with the Dallas District Attorney’s Office.
This is a developing story.