Former Dallas Police Office Amber Guyger Sentenced to 10 Years
|thenorthstar||Oct 2, 2019|
Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was convicted of murder on October 1 in the 2018 death of her upstairs neighbor Botham Jean. On October 2, the jury sentenced the 31-year-old to 10 years in prison.
Guyger was found guilty of murdering the 26-year-old accountant in his Dallas apartment on September 6, 2018. The five-year police veteran, who lived a floor below Jean, testified that she entered his apartment thinking it was her own and fatally shot him after mistaking him for a burglar.
The former police officer was off-duty at the time of the shooting but was still in uniform following a nearly 14-hour shift. Guyger was fired from the Dallas Police Department after Jean’s murder.
After just five hours of deliberation, the jury delivered the guilty verdict around 10:30 a.m. on October 1 with Guyger facing five years to life in prison, The Dallas Morning News reported. Jean’s mother celebrated the conviction with her arms raised high as cheers were heard from outside of the courtroom.
“God is good. Trust him,” Allison Jean told The Dallas Morning News as she walked out of the court.
After learning the verdict, Guyger was booked into the Dallas County jail, becoming the first Dallas officer convicted of murder since the 1970s, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The punishment phase of the trial continued on October 2. Before sentencing, state District Court Judge Tammy Kemp, presiding over Guyger’s murder case, provided jurors with a written guidance on the state’s “sudden passion” defense, CBS News reported.
The Texas Penal Code allows a defendant convicted of first-degree murder to have their offense reduced to a second-degree felony if they can prove during the punishment phase of the trial that they caused the death under the “immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause.” According to CBS News, if the jury agreed that Guyger killed Jean in the heat of the moment, she instead would face between two and 20 years in prison.
Jurors heard heartbreaking testimony from Jean’s friends and family during the punishment phase on October 2. Jean’s friend Alexis Stossel spoke of her last text messages with the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant the night of his killing. She learned of his death the following morning after receiving a phone call, CBS News reported.
“I hung up the phone and I called Botham seven times, and there was no answer,” the distraught friend told the jury.
Bertrum Jean, Botham’s father, also delivered an emotional testimony. “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?” he said through tears. “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.”
Bertrum told jurors his son would call his family back in their native St. Lucia every Sunday after his worship service, The Dallas Morning News reported. The father and son would talk about church and the 26-year-old would send his father photos of whatever he was cooking that day.
Jurors also saw racist and violent text messages and social media comments made by Guyger, according to WFAA. The jury saw a text message thread from January 15, 2018 between Guyger and one of her police colleagues. “When does this end lol,” an officer sent Guyger during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade in Dallas. Guyger responded, “When MLK is dead… oh wait…”
In a text discussing the parade crowd, Guyger wrote, “Just push them… or spray your pepper spray in that general area.” Months later, in a text message exchange between Guyger and her married ex-lover and police partner, Officer Martin Rivera, the two complained about having to work with Black officers. “Damn I was at this area with 5 different Black officers !!! Not racist but damn,” he wrote.
“Not racist but just have a different way of working and it shows,” she replied.
Two days before the fatal shooting, Guyger exchanged some texts with someone who suggested she should adopt a German Shepherd, WFAA reported. The dog owner warned Guyger that the dog “may be racist.”
Guyger responded that it would be okay because “I’m the same.” She added later, “I hate everything and everyone but y’all.”
State prosecutors showed the jury three Pinterest posts pinned to Guyger’s account. One image included a military sniper with the caption: “Stay low, go fast; kill first, die last; one shot, one kill; no luck, all skill.” Another read: “I wear all black to remind you not to mess with me, because I’m already dressed for your funeral.”
Guyger’s attorneys attempted to prevent prosecutors from showing the jury the texts and social media posts arguing that jurors would be unfairly swayed while considering her sentence.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.