Judge Tammy Kemp: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

tammy kemp

Instagram Judge Tammy Kemp

Judge Tammy Kemp, the Dallas County District Court Judge who hugged former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger and gave her a Bible, previously worked as both a prosecutor and defense attorney.

Kemp serves as a judge for the 204th Judicial District. She has been on the bench since 2014. Her actions with Guyger, whose murder trial she had just presided over, are causing controversy.

Guyger walked into Botham Jean’s apartment allegedly thinking it was her own, then shot Jean to death. She testified that she thought he was an intruder. You can learn more about the case here.

On October 2, 2019, Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in jail for the murder of Jean. You can learn more about her sentencing here. 

According to The New York Timesthe jury deliberated for approximately 90 minutes before handing down a guilty verdict. Following the sentencing, many have challenged what they believe to be a lenient sentence for the details of the crime; prosecutors of Guyger had requested a prison term of at least 28 years, which was the age that Jean was at the time of his death.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Kemp Used to Be a Dallas County Prosecutor Before She Was a Judge

Kemp served as a prosecutor and also as a defense attorney for Dallas County for over two decades before she ran for the position of a Texas District Judge for the 204th Judicial District Court in 2018. She first ran in 2014; she is currently serving her second term.

In a questionnaire Kemp answered for voters in the The Dallas News during her re-election bid, Kemp explained why she’d decided to run a second time.

When I ran in 2014, I made a commitment to be ‘accountable to the public, compassionate towards victims, and fair to the accused’, I have lived up to those principles. When I entered office in 2015, our court had been consistently ranked among the least productive, particularly when it came to addressing the needs of the individuals in jail. Since June 2015, we have consistently ranked among the top performing courts in all areas of efficiency–particularly when it comes to ensuring that both the State and the defense are addressing the needs of those in jail. I believe the community has been well served by our commitment, and I would like to continue serving.

She also spoke about her experience as a prosecutor, as well. She said, “As a prosecutor, I served under three unique District Attorneys, and each instilled values that have impacted me and made me into a better judge. As a defense attorney, I became aware of the challenges defendants and their attorneys face in preparing a defense.”

Kemp said she decided to run as a Democrat “for their inclusiveness and progressive ideology.”


2. Kemp Writes Longhand Notes on the Bench as a Focus Tactic

According to a profile of Kemp in The Dallas News, Kemp writes in longhand while she’s on the bench. It’s a tactic to keep her focused, the publication notes.

Per the publication, Kemp has also prosecuted a number of interesting cases. She once even kept a victim’s ashes on her desk for several days until a family member came to pick them up.

Kemp prosecuted convicted murderer Naim Rasool Muhammed in a trial in 2013 that eventually led to his being given the death penalty. Muhammed was accused of drowning both of his sons to death.

She does community service work, telling the Dallas Morning News, “I’m most pleased with having partnered with the AFL-CIO for the creation of Project Phoenix. Project Phoenix employs non-violent felony offenders in apprenticeship positions, which pay a living wage and assists the individuals with becoming productive citizens.”


3. Kemp Attended the University of Oklahoma Law School & Graduated in 1988

Kemp attended the University of Oklahoma for both her undergraduate and her graduate degrees. She graduated from Oklahoma with a degree in Finance in 1984, and a law degree in 1988.

Kemp’s website reads, “Accountable to the public, compassionate towards victims, and fair to the accused.”

And her bio on her website reads,

The Honorable Tammy Kemp is the Presiding Judge of the 204th Judicial District Court in Dallas County, Texas. Since taking the bench in 2014, Judge Kemp has successfully streamlined the court’s docket process, resulting in cost savings to taxpayers and the 204th consistently ranking among the top criminal district courts in the county. Kemp’s genuine commitment to serve the citizens of Dallas County has earned her a reputation of being accountable to the public, compassionate towards victims and fair to the accused.

She told the Dallas Morning News she supports rehabilitation, saying, “The system should be reformed to help address the impact that other aspects of life have on criminal activity; such as poverty, homelessness, mental health and substance abuse issues.”


4. Kemp Controversially Ruled that the Jury Could Consider the State’s ‘Castle Doctrine’ in the Guyger Trial


Judge Tammy Kemp embraces Botham Jean's family after trialAfter the trial ended, Judge Tammy Kemp embraced Botham Jean's parents. This was just one of a few emotional moments following the trial. Judge Kemp and Botham Jean's brother both hugged Amber Guyger and Brandt Jean told her he forgave her. MORE: wfaa.com/bothamjean2019-10-02T21:55:40.000Z

On Monday, Kemp reportedly told the jury they could consider Texas’s “castle doctrine” in this trial, which says that your home is your castle and you have the right to defend it.

The decision was controversial because Guyger was not inside her home when she shot Jean; she was inside his apartment. She did claim she thought it was her own apartment when she shot him.

Many challenged the legitimacy of the use of the doctrine in this specific instance. Joaquin Castro tweeted, “Why should you be allowed to break into someone’s home, shoot them and then be let off the hook by the Castle Doctrine?”

Andrew Gillum tweeted,So you can break into someone else’s home (b/c you were distracted by porn from your boyfriend), pull a weapon, shoot and kill the home owner, and claim Castle doctrine in SOMEBODY ELSE’s HOUSE?!?! Perversion of the law? How about just plain racist. SMDH”


5. Video of Kemp Hugging Guyger Went Viral Following the Sentencing


Judge Tammy Kemp speaks with Amber Guyger after trialJudge Tammy Kemp shared a few words with and hugged Amber Guyger after the end of the trial. MORE: wfaa.com/bothamjean2019-10-02T22:13:44.000Z

In addition to the controversy over the sentencing itself, Kemp and Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, were the subject of much attention when they both did something particularly surprising in the courtroom: they each gave Guyger a hug.

Kemp also gave Guyger her what she said was one of her personal Bibles. According to a local publication, she said to Guyger, “You can have mine. I have three or four at home.” She then said something unintelligible, then added, “This is your job.”

Per the publication, Kemp told mentioned John 3:16. She said to the convicted murderer, “You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith. You start with this.”

John 3:16 reads, “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.”

READ NEXT: Botham Jean’s Brother Hugs Amber Guyger.


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