Amber Guyger, the former Dallas police officer who was found guilty of murder for shooting her neighbor, businessman Botham Jean, in his own apartment, was sentenced by a Texas jury to 10 years in prison.
In an extraordinary moment, after Guyger’s sentencing, Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, told Guyger that he loved and forgave her from the witness stand, and then asked the judge whether he could hug her. She said yes, and Brandt Jean and Guyger then hugged for a lengthy time in court.
“I don’t know if this is possible but can I give her a hug please? Please?” Brandt Jean inquired from the witness stand, where he was giving a victim impact statement after Guyger’s sentencing. Brandt Jean’s hug was an act of true forgiveness from the family of a man whose Christian faith was described in great detail to the jury that convicted Guyger of murder and, then, sentenced her to the decade in prison for his shooting death. Botham Jean was deeply connected to his Christian faith and known for his singing in church.
Here’s the video:
Here’s the full video of today’s sentencing phase, which includes the Brandt Jean/Guyger moment toward the end.
This is the statement Jean gave to the court before he asked to hug Amber Guyger:
“I don’t want to say twice or for the hundredth time how much you’ve taken from us. I think you know that. But I just…I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past. Each and every one of us may have done something we’re not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry, I speak for myself, I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can say, I’m speaking for myself…but I love you just like everyone else. And I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, I personally want the best for you. And I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but, I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you. Because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do and the best would be to give your life to Christ… I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you.”
The same jury that convicted Guyger handed down her sentence after a sentencing hearing that involved witnesses from both the prosecution and the defense, including Guyger’s family members. Guyger did not testify during the sentencing. While her attorneys asked for leniency, prosecutors asked for a sentence of at least 28 years. Guyger, 31, will have to serve at least half of the sentence before she is eligible to parole. She faced from 5 to 99 years in prison. Her time in prison will begin immediately even if Guyger appeals the verdict and her sentence. She had been out on bail during the trial, but was taken into custody and spent the night in jail after being convicted.
Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother, said after the sentencing: “That 10 years in prison is 10 years for her reflection and for her to change her life. But there is much more to be done by the City of Dallas. The corruption that we saw during this process must stop. And it must stop for you. Because after now I leave Dallas, but you live in Dallas, and it must stop for everyone.”
The moment she was sentenced can be watched below:
After Brandt Jean’s emotional statement, and as the courtroom cleared, Judge Tammy Kemp walked down from the bench to meet with Guyger. She also spoke with Jean’s family members. The judge also hugged the former Dallas police officer and gave her a Bible, reading her a passage: John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Prosecutors went first and they presented texts that Guyger sent joking about a Martin Luther King Jr. parade, racist dog, and black officers. They also brought members of Botham Shem Jean’s family to testify about his potential and their grief.
Guyger’s family members and other police officers testified on the second day of the sentencing hearing.
Guyger had just gotten off work from her job as a Dallas police officer after a night of overtime when she barged into the apartment of Jean, a stranger to her, and shot and killed the promising man, who sang in church and was the son of prominent parents from Saint Lucia. Guyger’s argument was that she was overtired and mistakenly thought Jean’s apartment was her own.
Watch the first day’s sentencing phase (October 1):
After the first day of the sentencing phase concluded, a new mugshot of Guyger was released. For his part, her lawyer asked the jury to judge her life in totality. He presented LaWanda Clark, who is black, as a character witness for Guyger. Guyger had ticketed Clark during a drug arrest but then helped her kick addiction and even attended her graduation ceremony from a drug treatment program.
Botham Jean wasn’t doing anything wrong; Jean was just eating ice cream and watching TV when he was shot. Jurors rejected Guyger’s contention that she was operating in self-defense because she thought he was an intruder. She used her service weapon to shoot him. The judge allowed the jury to consider a Castle Doctrine or Stand Your Ground defense for Guyger as well as whether she was guilty of murder or manslaughter. The jurors chose murder.
She could have faced between 2 and 20 years in prison on a manslaughter conviction. Jurors asked for definitions of manslaughter and the Castle Doctrine at one point in their deliberations. But jurors eventually convicted her of murder.
The state called witnesses to testify to Jean’s future. The man they called “Bo” was a source of comfort and support at work, said Kerry Ray, Botham Jean’s coach at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
He was described a perfectionist who had a bright future. “Whatever he wanted to do in the long term, he was going to be excellent at it. His potential was unlimited. He could write his own check I think,” said Ray.
Guyger Wrote Jokes About a Martin Luther King Jr. Parade & Said She Wanted a Racist Dog, Prosecutors Say
Prosecutors presented text messages that referred to Guyger working at the MLK Jr. parade.
“When does this end lol,” someone asked via text message.
Guyger responded, according to prosecutors: “When MLK is dead… oh wait…” The other person wrote back “Ha.” Guyger texted back, “Geez 2.5 hours going on 3 hours of this…” And later in the same text string: “Just push them or spray… in that general area.”
In another text string, there was discussion about a dog. An officer stated the dog “may be racist.”
Guyger responded, according to prosecutors: “I wish I could have one but not in this apartment smaller than my old one.” And then: “It’s okay…I’m the same.”
She also wrote: “I hate everything and everyone but ya’ll.”
Her former partner, with whom she was having a relationship, wrote in another text thread, “Damn I was at this area with 5 different black officers!!! Not racist but damn.”
Guyger responded: “Not racist but just have a different way of working and it shows.”
Guyger also shared graphics on Pinterest that referred to shootings.
On Pinterest, she shared things like “stay low, go fast, kill first, die last. One shot, one kill. No luck, all skill.”
And: “I wear all black to remind you not to mess with me, because I’m already dressed for your funeral.” And: “People are so ungrateful. No one ever thanks me for having the patience not to kill them.”
The Castle Doctrine allows a person to use deadly force to protect their own home; but Guyger wasn’t in her own home. Thus, Prosecutors argued that the Castle Doctrine should only have applied to Jean, not Guyger, because he was the one in his own home. Guyger’s defense team labeled the shooting the culmination of “a series of horrible mistakes.” The Texas jury started deliberating on September 30, 2019.
The prosecutor read the jury one of Guyger’s statements: “I never want anybody to have to go through or even imagine going through what I felt that night.” He then retorted: “Are you kidding me?”
On November 30, 2018, Guyger was indicted on the murder charge. The case has increased racial tensions because Jean was black and Guyger white.
Botham Shem Jean was from a prominent Saint Lucian family of parliamentarians and government ministers. He was also a recent college graduate who studied accounting and was known for his leadership on campus and his beautiful singing voice in his Christian Church.
Jean’s Mother Movingly Described Her Son’s Successes
Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, runs the Saint Lucia national Utilities Regulatory Commission. She testified that her son would have been 28 just that past Sunday. She said that he placed 23rd on the entire island growing up so he was accepted into the top high school on Saint Lucia. “He was very active. He was president of his schoolhouse. He was also the leader for several clubs…He started a choir because he loved to sing,” she said.
“I always referred to him as the glue of my three kids,” she said. “…He was always giving advice…” After high school, Jean went to college and worked at a manufacturing company in Saint Lucia at first. However, his desire was to study accounting. “Botham was a very headstrong child,” and he wanted to go to college in Arkansas because it was a Christian University so he could continue his singing there, his mother said.
“He was good with math, good with accounting,” Allison Jean said. He was very active in college, including on the Harding University rugby team. He brought fellow students back to the island to help at-risk boys on mission trips.
Findley talked about how close her children were to Jean. Her son is “scared of police officers,” she said. He came running to the car once solely because he saw a police officer after Jean’s death. Jean would sing with one of her sons and the other would wear his clothes. She treated him like another son. He was a song leader in the church. A video of Jean singing in church was played.
Guyger Cried in Court But Prosecutors Didn’t Buy Her Story
Guyger took the stand in her own defense at trial, but during sentencing. “I was scared this person in this apartment was going to hurt me, and I’m so sorry,” an emotional Guyger testified. “…I have to live with that every single day. No police officer would ever want to hurt an innocent person.”
According to NBC News, Guyger lived one floor above Jean in the apartment complex. He was likely startled when she burst into his apartment and was either getting up from the sofa or “cowering” when Guyger shot him, prosecutors argued.
For her part, Guyger alleged Jean came toward her and shouted “Hey! Hey! Hey!” according to NBC.
For his part, the prosecutor, Jason Fine, told the jury, “A guilty verdict in this case does not mean you hate police.” He alleged that Guyger should have known that she was entering the wrong apartment. According to the Dallas Morning News, Fine ticked off several clues that Guyger missed, including a red mat in front of Jean’s door. “…she should’ve known she was in the wrong apartment,” he told the jury.
Fine said that Guyger’s fears were not reasonable. “It sounds so absurd all the things that she missed and all the things that she thought and yeah she thinks it but she is not a reasonable person,” he said to the jury.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus said: “Killing this man was unnecessary and it was unreasonable.” Cheers erupted in the courthouse hallway as prosecutors left. “There was no other floor mat like this is the entire building. This sticks out, literally, like a red thumb,” Hermus said, showing jurors the red floor mat. “And she walked up to it and stood on top of it.”