The brother of Botham Jean, who was shot dead by former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in his own home, told her in court: ‘I don’t even want you to go to jail, I want the best for you.’
After two days of testimony, Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the murder of her unarmed black neighbour. The decision which was met with immediate protests, with Jean’s family supporters saying the sentence should be no less than 28 years – the same age as Jean himself.
However, in an extraordinary courtroom moment, Jean’s brother Brandt gave Guyger a hug, telling her: ‘I love you as a person.’
Have a look at the powerful moment below:
BREAKING: In stunning moment, Botham Jean's brother embraces Amber Guyger after her sentencing for his brother's murder.
— ABC News (@ABC) October 2, 2019
As reported by The Guardian, Brandt told Guyger from the stand:
I love you just like anyone else, I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, but I personally want the best for you.
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 … and the best would be, give your life to Christ.
After asking permission from Judge Tammy Kemp, Brandt then hugged Guyger in an emotional embrace, with the former police officer sobbing into his shoulder.
Shortly after, the judge herself came down to give Guyger a hug, as well as giving her a bible.
As reported by CNN, Guyger said:
You can have mine. I have three or four more at home. This is the one I use every day. This is your job for the next month. It says right here. John 3:16. And this is where you start. ‘For God so loved the world…’
For some, the sentence was considered a victory in the larger-scale fight for national police reform in the US. John Creuzot, the Dallas county district attorney, called the courtroom embrace ‘an amazing act of healing’.
As reported by The Guardian, Creuzot told reporters at a press conference:
Personally I expected perhaps longer but I respect what [the jury] did … they reached what they thought was a just verdict.
We’re going to move on and Botham’s family is moving on.
Whereas S. Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Jean’s family, wrote on Twitter: ‘Of course that’s inadequate. The entire justice system is inadequate and the work must continue.’
Guyger, 31, shot Botham Jean dead in his apartment in 2018. She claimed she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own after being ‘simply exhausted’ after a 13-hour shift.
Believing her life was in danger from a burglar – when, in fact, Jean was just sitting eating ice cream – Guyger shot her gun twice, hitting him once in the chest.
She was hysterical during the trial, pleading with prosecutors and jurors:
And I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I was scared whoever was inside my apartment was going to kill me. And I’m sorry. I’m have to live with that every day.
Guyger denied accusations that she was a racist, saying there was no hate involved in the shooting – she just made a ‘mistake-of-fact… the same thing that you’re hearing when you hear the police say, ‘we thought he had a gun’’ according to defence attorney Russell Wilson, The Dallas Morning News reports.
You can Guyger’s emotional testimony below:
Here is an excerpt from Amber Guyger’s testimony during her murder trial pic.twitter.com/f9DtLOCUfN
— J.D. Miles (@jdmiles11) September 27, 2019
Judge Kemp did allow jurors to consider the ‘sudden passion’ defence – this deliberates whether Guyger’s actions were carried out in an act of panic ‘sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection’.
This would have carried a lower sentencing window of two to 20 years, but jurors decided against it.
Her lower sentence of 10 years – she was originally facing anywhere between four and 99 years – could have something to do with her generally clean public service record and lack of criminal record.
Kenneth Williams, a professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston, told The Washington Post:
I would imagine with her being a police officer, even though they found her guilty, there would probably be some individuals on the jury who might be sympathetic to her.
Jean’s mother, Allison, told reports that the trial highlighted the city’s corruption.
Allison told reporters following the ruling:
That 10 years in prison is for her reflection and for her to change her life, but there is much more to be done by the city of Dallas.
If Amber Guyger was trained not to shoot in the heart, my son would be standing here today. He was no threat to her. He had no reason to cause a threat to her because he was in his own apartment, in his sanctuary.
His privacy was violated, she intruded on him, and that was not enough – she killed him.
At a separate news conference, Police Chief Renee Hall told reporters: ‘Sworn testimony revealed things during this trial that gave me concern… I acknowledge that there are things that we need to change.’
On Tuesday (October 1), Allison took the stand to recall the moment she found out about the shooting.
As reported by The Guardian, Allison said:
My life has not been the same. It’s just been like a roller coaster. I cannot sleep, I cannot eat. It’s just been the most terrible time for me.
I’m not able to work. I just try to busy myself to see if it will get out of my head, but it’s been very, very, very difficult.
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.