Brandt Jean, the brother of slain St. Lucian businessman Botham Jean, hugged former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in a Texas courtroom after a jury sentenced her to 10 years in prison. It was an extraordinary moment that led to sobs in court after Brandt told Guyger that he forgives and loves her, asking her to turn to Christ.
After the emotional statement of forgiveness, Jean asked the remarkable question of the judge. “I don’t know if this is possible but can I give her a hug please? Please?” he inquired from the witness stand, where he was giving a victim impact statement after Guyger’s sentencing. The judge allowed it, and Jean embraced Guyger in a lengthy hug. You can watch the moment on video below. Some people are praising Brandt for his act of forgiveness, but others are criticizing the hug on social media. You can read more about the criticism here.
Allison Jean, Brandt’s and Botham’s mother, praised Brandt on Facebook, writing, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6. I’m proud of you my son, Brandt. Your load is lighter. Who feels it knows it. Regardless of the views of the spectators, walk with God always. Forgiveness is for the forgiver and it doesn’t matter what the forgiven does with it. #BelikeBo is being Christlike. #LetitRise.”
Throughout their own deeply moving testimony, the Jean family has served as an elegant and powerful reminder of the promise and potential that was lost when Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean after she said she mistakenly went into his apartment, thinking it was her own. Prosecutors had argued she should have known she was entering the wrong apartment. A jury agreed, finding her guilty of murder instead of a lesser manslaughter charge.
Here’s the video showing the hug:
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 10 years in prison for his shooting death. Botham Jean was deeply connected to his Christian religion and known for his singing in church. A video of him singing in church was even presented previously in the sentencing hearing. Brandt Jean was only 17 when Guyger shot and killed his brother. He previously described hearing his mother cry, telling Fox 6, “I still don’t believe he’s gone, but we have to accept it. He was really inspiring. He had a positive mind and vibe.”
Allison Jean, Botham’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.”
Here’s the full video of today’s sentencing phase, which includes the Brandt Jean/Guyger moment toward the end.
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 and Jean’s mother, father, and sister. 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.
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.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Brandt Jean Told Amber Guyger That His Brother Botham Would Want Her to Give Her Life to Christ
The courtroom grew silent as Brandt Jean took the stand. It had already been an emotional day with testimony from both families. 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.”
Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, runs the Saint Lucia national Utilities Regulatory Commission. She told CBS of Brandt’s action, “What he did today, was remarkable, and he did it all on his own. What Brandt did was to cleanse his heart towards Amber … I do not want it to be misconstrued as a complete forgiveness of everybody.”
Allison Jean testified previously in the sentencing phase for Guyger 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.
Botham Jean’s sister 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.
“I want my brother back,” she said. “If I could just continue our last conversation and not let him hang up the phone.”
Bertrum Jean, Botham’s father, told the jury: “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? In hindsight — what could we have done? My family is broken-hearted. How could it be possible? We’ll never see him again. And I want to see him, I still want to see him.”
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 as 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.
READ NEXT: The Life of Botham Shem Jean.