Amber Guyger: Sentenced for a Crime She Did Commit
Judgment day officially came for disgraced ex-cop Amber Guyger on Wednesday.
However, as unique as the case began, it ended with a labyrinth of twists, turns, and moments of shocking solidarity.
Guyger, who is white, was charged with the murder of Botham Shem Jean, an unarmed black male, after mistakenly entering his apartment back in September 2018. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison yesterday.
On Tuesday, Guyger originally faced between five to 99 years behind bars. However, on Wednesday morning before the decision was made, the jury was offered a "sudden-passion defense" option, which would have lessened Guyger's sentence to anywhere between two to 20 years.
"Sudden-passion," according to the Texas Penal Code, states that if a person who is convicted of first-degree murder can prove that they acted out of terror or in the heat of the moment rather than to intentionally cause harm, they would be eligible to receive a lesser charge of second-degree murder.
The jury initially rejected this defense, and the prosecution requested Guyger be sentenced to no less than 28 years due to Jean's 28th birthday last Sunday. Yet, the jury's ruling still somehow managed to fall within the "passion defense" option.
Before the ruling, the prosecution showed the jury a series of text messages exchanged between Guyger and others in hopes that the content and nature of the texts would persuade the jury to consider a 28-year sentence.
One series occurred during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade, where the individual texting Guyger asked, "When does this end lol" to which Guyger responds, "When MLK is dead...oh wait..."
On March 9, 2018, Guyger and Martin Rivera, her former partner and married lover, exchanged apparent racially-charged messages which were also shown to the jury. The messages suggested that Rivera was in an area surrounded primarily by black cops, much to his perceived annoyance. Guyger, in turn, seemed to agree with his reaction.
The prosecution also presented another series of text messages between Guyger and another person on September 4, 2018, two days before the fateful night. The individual, who appears to be a dog owner, offers Guyger a German Shepherd, though states that the dog may be racist. Guyger then said she wishes she can own a dog but cannot due to the size of her apartment. Right after, she replies, "It's okay...I'm the same..."
The prosecution also displayed some of Guyger's social media posts which seemed to promote police violence against civilians. See the video below for the social media evidence presented to the jury.
As a result of the purportedly lighthearted decision, many Twitter users expressed their disbelief at the 10-year sentence.
One user mentioned the sentencing of Korey Wise-one-fifth of the Central Park 5-who served the longest sentence out of the wrongfully convicted group for a crime he was not even present for. However, his sentence still beat out Guyger's, as the Twitter user angrily pointed out.
At age 16, Korey Wise of the #Exonerated5 spent almost 14 yrs in jail for crimes he did not commit and maintained his innocence at every stage.— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) October 2, 2019
Former Dallas cop #AmberGuyger, age 31, murdered Botham Jean in his own apartment and was sentenced to 10 years.#JusticeForBotham pic.twitter.com/dQgjiJUzgv
Another user also shared her disappointment with the decision.
S. Lee Merritt, the Jean family's lawyer, was also not pleased with the sentence, calling it "inadequate."
However, Merritt stated that serious consequences and "convictions of white police officers killing unarmed black men were rare."
In the aftermath of Guyger's sentence, angry Black Lives Matter activists gathered outside of the courtroom and voiced their outrage over the jury's decision.
"...Ten years is a slap in the [expletive] face," an outraged activist exclaimed.
"This is not a joke, this is our lives," another activist jumped in. "We're talking about something that we have to worry about for the rest of our lives..."
According to the Associated Press, marches around downtown Dallas have already erupted in the wake of Guyger's sentence, with protestors blocking the streets surrounding the courthouse where Guyger's trial took place. A female protestor was also reportedly arrested for failing to comply with an officer's demands to move out of the street.
Despite the massive public disapproval, however, Jean's 18-year-old brother, Brandt, openly forgave Guyger.
"I hope you go to God with all the guilt [and] all the bad things you may have done in the past," Brandt told Guyger after the decision. "Each and every one of us may have done something that we're not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you and I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you."
The 18-year-old then proceeded to hug and console a crying Guyger.
Not only did the now-convicted felon receive a hug from Jean's brother, but Guyger was also embraced by Judge Tammy Kemp, much to the dismay of onlookers.
After Guyger's sentence, Botham Jean's mother, Allison Jean, addressed the public during a press conference, stating that the ex-officer's 10-year sentence was not only time behind bars, but a time to reflect on her life.
"Yesterday, we saw the conviction of Amber Guyger," Allison Jean told the crowd. "Today, we heard the sentence of ten years in prison. That ten years in prison is ten years for her reflection and to change her life."
The mother of the victim then went on to say that there was still more justice to be sought in the city of Dallas, with many supporters surrounding her voicing their agreement.
Amber Guyger and Botham Jean both resided in the same apartment building on 1210 South Lamar Street, with Guyger living on the third floor and Jean on the fourth. Jean, who was 26 at the time, was an accountant and hailed from the island, St. Lucia.
According to the original arrest affidavit, on the night of September 6, 2018, Guyger, who was still in uniform after returning from a shift, parked her car on the fourth-floor parking lot, which coincided with the floor Jean lived on. Upon entering the building, the ex-cop walked down the fourth-floor hallway to what she assumed was her own apartment. As she was entering her key, which had an electronic chip, the door fully opened after already being slightly ajar. Guyger told police that she saw a large silhouette and after issuing a few verbal commands at Jean, who she said ignored her, she drew her firearm and fired two shots, with one striking the victim in his torso. It was later discovered that Jean was eating ice cream and watching television at the time Guyger entered his apartment.
The affidavit continues to explain that at this point, Guyger fully entered the dark apartment, immediately called 911, and administered first aid to Jean. She then turned on the lights while on the phone with a 911 operator. Only after being asked her location did Guyger realize she was not in her apartment. Jean was then taken to Baylor Hospital where he died of his injuries.
Here is the original audio of Guyger's phone call with the 911 operator:
In the audio, Guyger can be heard repeatedly saying, "I thought this was my apartment," while also foreshadowing that she is going to lose her job.
Guyger's vision into the future came true as she ended up getting fired later that month.
Other Key Points From The Trial
The murder trial began on Friday, September 23, 2019, and lasted for seven days.
During the trial, residents of South Side Flats admitted to parking on the wrong floor of the garage and even going to another resident's apartment door by mistake. Joshua Brown, a resident who has lived in South Side for "four months" said that he "went to the wrong floor on a few occasions." Another witness, resident Whitney Hughes, also stated that she has gone to the wrong floor on two separate occasions, even attempting to unlock another resident's door once in the past.
In the 911 call, Guyger could be heard crying out "stay with me bud" in what sounds like a desperate attempt to save Jean's life. During her testimony, Guyger said she was "rubbing his sternum," which is a procedure used to assess a person's level of consciousness. However, when the prosecution displayed graphic footage taken from Officer Michael Lee's body camera, Lee and other officers can be seen trying unsuccessfully to resuscitate Jean whereas Guyger walks away.
Guyger also broke down in tears while stating that her fear is what led her to ultimately pull the trigger.
However, prosecutors pointed out that Guyger may have possibly been distracted by explicit text messages that were exchanged between herself and her married partner Martin Rivera, leading Guyger to mistakenly enter the wrong apartment in the first place.
Here is Guyger's testimony below:
What started as a bizarre murder case plagued with shocking revelations, ill-fated affairs, and a rare case of mistaken identity ended on an even more astonishing note, as sparks of outrage, confusion, and an unforeseen touch of forgiveness continue to fly.
One can only imagine what will happen now in the wake of another unarmed murder.