Emily Crane, Daily Mail, October 1, 2019
White Dallas police officer Amber Guyger has been found guilty of murder after she fatally shot her unarmed black neighbor after claiming she mistook his apartment for her own.
A jury reached the unanimous verdict in the high-profile trial for the 2018 killing of 26-year-old Botham Jean after six days of witness testimony but just a handful of hours of deliberation.
In Texas, the sentence for murder is from five to 99 years in prison. The jury is expected to return on Tuesday afternoon for the punishment phase of the trial. Jean’s family are expected to address the court at that time.
Loud cheers erupted in the courtroom from Jean’s family as the verdict was announced and someone yelled ‘Thank you, Jesus!’
In the hallway outside the courtroom, a crowd celebrated and shouted ‘black lives matter’. When the prosecutors walked into the hall, they broke into cheers.
Guyger sat alone, weeping, at the defense table.
The basic facts of the unusual shooting were never in dispute throughout the trial.
Guyger, a four-year veteran with Dallas Police, was off duty but still in uniform when she fatally shot Jean in his home on the evening of September 6, 2018.
She told investigators that after a 13.5 hour shift she parked on the fourth floor of her apartment complex’s garage — rather than the third floor where she lived — and found the apartment’s door unlocked.
Believing she was at her own apartment and seeing a silhouette of a figure who didn’t respond to verbal commands, Guyger said she fired two shots at Jean that killed him.
Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, had been eating a bowl of ice cream on the couch before Guyger entered his home.
Prosecutors argued during the trial that Guyger should have noticed she was on the wrong floor and that she missed missed numerous signs before entering the apartment.
They suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages with her police partner and also questioned why Guyger didn’t radio in for help when she thought there was a break-in at her home instead of entering the apartment with her gun drawn.
Prosecutors pointed out that Guyger, given she was still in uniform, had a number of non-lethal items attached to her service belt at the time of the shooting, including a stun gun and pepper spray.
Her defense attorneys, however, said she fired in self-defense based on the belief that Jean was a burglar.
They argued in their closing statements on Monday that her belief she was killing an intruder in her home was entirely reasonable and the shooting was a result of ‘a series of horrible mistakes’.
In a frantic 911 call played repeatedly during the trial, Guyger said ‘I thought it was my apartment’ nearly 20 times. Her lawyers argued that the identical physical appearance of the apartment complex from floor to floor frequently led to tenants to the wrong apartments.
The jury that convicted Guyger was largely made up of women and people of color.
Jean, who grew up in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, came to the U.S. for college and starting his career as an accountant.
His shooting drew widespread attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.
Benjamin Crump, one of the lawyer’s for Jean’s family, said the verdict could turn the tide for cases accusing police officers of unlawful killing.
‘The jury’s thoughtful verdict sets a powerful precedent for future cases, telling law enforcement officers that they cannot hide behind the badge but instead will face justice for their wrongful actions,’ Crump said.
Guyger was arrested three days after the killing and then fired from the Dallas Police Department.
She was initially charged with manslaughter before a grand jury indicted her for murder.
Jurors were allowed to consider a manslaughter charge in their verdict, which can carry between two and 20 years behind bars.
The judge ruled on Monday that jurors could also consider Castle Doctrine, otherwise known as stand your ground, when considering their verdict. The law allows a person to use deadly force in protecting a home if someone is trying to forcibly enter.
Guyger broke down in tears when she took to the stand during the trial last week and apologized for shooting dead her neighbor.
Her testimony marked the first time the public heard directly from her since Jean’s killing. She told the jury she wished Jean had been the one to kill her instead of the other way around.
During her testimony, Guyger reenacted the moment she arrived at the wrong apartment thinking it was her own.
She said she put her key in the apartment lock and the door opened because it hadn’t been fully closed.
Guyger said she immediately drew her gun because she thought someone was in her home. She testified that she was ‘scared to death’ when she opened the door fully and saw a silhouetted figure standing in the darkness inside.
She told the jury she shouted at Jean: ‘Let me see your hands, let me see your hands’.
Guyger explained she couldn’t see his hands and that he began coming toward her at a ‘fast-paced’ walk, yelling ‘hey, hey, hey’ in an ‘aggressive voice’.
She said that is when she fired her gun twice.
‘I was scared he was going to kill me,’ she said.
She said she intended to kill him when she pulled the trigger because that’s what she had been trained to do as a police officer.
During her testimony, she recounted police training that focused on learning to control suspects and the importance of seeing their hands, which kicked in as she spotted Jean.
When asked how she felt about killing an innocent man, she said through tears: ‘No police officer ever would want to hurt an innocent person.
‘I feel like a terrible person. I feel like a piece of cr**. I hate that I have to live with this every single day of my life. I feel like I don’t deserve the chance to be with my family and friends.
‘I wish he was the one with the gun and had killed me. I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life. I am so sorry. This is not about hate, it’s about being scared that night.’
It is relatively rare for criminal defendants to testify in their own defense at trial given prosecutors can cross-examine them. Legal experts said Guyger’s lawyers may have wanted to her to testify to make her appear human.
Defense attorneys questioned Guyger about her childhood and her aspirations to become a police officer.
‘I just wanted to help people and that was the one career that I thought I could help people in,’ Guyger said.
Guyger told the jury that police work was ‘the one thing I wanted to do since I was little’.
Prosecutors, however, cast doubt on Guyger’s grief and wondered why she didn’t call for backup instead of confronting Jean and questioned her attempts to save his life.
When prosecutors asked Guyger why she didn’t radio in for help when she thought there was a break-in at what she thought was her home, she replied that going through the doorway with her gun drawn ‘was the only option that went through my head’.
The prosecutor also grilled Guyger about why she didn’t perform ‘proper CPR’ on Jean after she shot him.
He asked about an eight-hour de-escalation training course she had taken that April, but Guyger told the jury she could no longer remember what she learned in the course.
She said she performed some chest compressions on Jean with one hand while using her phone with the other, but she also acknowledged stopping several times.
Prosecutors suggested that Guyger was less than grief-stricken in the aftermath of the shooting, saying that two days after she shot Jean, she asked her police partner, with whom she was romantically involved, if he wanted to go for drinks.
Guyger admitted that she sent flirtatious, sexually-orientated messages to Martin Rivera and talked about getting drunk. The court heard that Rivera is married and has children.
She testified that they had a yearlong relationship, which she ended because it was ‘morally wrong’.
In addition to the texts Guyger sent her lover after the shooting, prosecutors revealed during the trial that she had also exchanged sexually explicit messages and photos the day she shot dead Jean. Prosecutors said Guyger sent a message to Rivera saying she was ‘super horny today’ and a Snapchat message saying ‘Wanna touch?’ just hours before the shooting.
Just prior to the shooting, prosecutors said Guyger was on the phone with Rivera for 16 minutes as she headed back to to her apartment.
Prosecutors made the argument that Guyger was distracted by her phone conversation with Rivera when she mistook Jean’s apartment for hers.
Rivera took to the stand during the trial and told jurors that their conversation was was mostly about police work but his memory of the call was hazy.
He denied the prosecutor’s suggestion that he had made any plans to rendezvous with Guyger later that night.
Prosecutors said that after the shooting, Guyger sent two text messages to her partner while she was simultaneously on the phone to 911 as Jean was bleeding to death on his floor.
She had texted him to say ‘I’m f**ked’ and that she needed him in the minutes after she shot Jean, the court heard.
Guyger deleted the logs of her text exchanges with Rivera from her cellphone after the shooting.
Rivera said he didn’t not know why she had done that but admitted that he had also deleted their text exchanges.
Guyger later testified that she deleted the texts between her and her partner because she was ashamed to be in a relationship with him.
She added that she had deleted texts between them before.
In the frantic 911 call played in court early in the trial, Guyger — who was later fired from the force — can be heard saying ‘I thought it was my apartment’ nearly 20 times.
She also says: ‘I’m gonna lose my job’ and ‘I am going to need a supervisor.’
‘I’m f****d. Oh my God. I’m sorry,’ Guyger says in the recording.
Throughout the call, she also spoke to Jean, called him ‘bud’ and encouraged him to stay alive.
Jurors were also shown footage from a body camera worn by one of two officers who arrived at the apartment after Guyger called 911 to report the shooting.
Officers could be seen running towards Jean’s apartment as Guyger screamed out that she was off-duty.
Guyger was standing near the front door when the officers arrived and could be heard saying: ‘I thought it was my apartment’.
The footage showed the two officers immediately rendering CPR to Jean who was shown lying on the floor surrounded by blood.
Guyger appeared to be pushed out of the apartment while the officers gave Jean first aid.
A different body cam image showed Guyger standing in hallway outside the apartment looking at her phone as CPR was being administered.
Guyger was criticized by prosecutors during the trial for not rendering aid to Jean after she shot him.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus asked her: ‘Why couldn’t you have given him full undivided and proper attention? You can put the phone on speaker phone’.
She replied: ‘I had so much racing through my head’.
Other footage shown during the trial showed her hugging and speaking to fellow officers on the scene, which prosecutors have argued showed she was given special treatment.
A crime scene analyst, who examined the scene and took photos of Guyger after the shooting, testified that the cop had a Taser and her pistol strapped to her at the time.
Prosecutors showed photos to the jury that analyst Robyn Carr took of Guyger inside a crime scene van after she fatally shot Jean.
Guyger can be seen in full police uniform with her utility belt still strapped on.
Prosecutors pointed to Guyger’s stun gun and the analyst confirmed that it was a Taser that ‘shoots out an electric probe that gets inserted into an individual’s skin’.
She also confirmed Guyger had her pistol strapped to her at the time.
Carr seized Guyger’s gun — photos of which were also shown to the jury — as evidence in the investigation.
Texas Ranger Michael Adcock, who was among the investigators, was asked during his testimony on Thursday about the non-lethal items attached to Guyger’s belt following the shooting.
He confirmed that in addition to the Taser and gun, Guyger also had OC spray — or pepper spray — on her at the time.
Prosecutors questioned Adcock about the radio attached to Guyger’s belt, saying: ‘If an officer is in trouble and needs immediate assistance what is the primary method of communication?’
‘It’s the radio, I guess,’ Adcock replied.
The prosecutor asked: ‘If you had a cellphone could you use that as well?’ to which Adcock responded: ‘Yes, sir’.
Under cross examination, Adcock said he wouldn’t use a stun gun or pepper spray if he believed he was in a deadly force situation and would use a handgun.
Footage and still images were shown in court of Guyger’s apartment that were taken by multiple investigators in the days after the shooting.
The footage showed the view of her apartment from the entryway to her home and also panned to show views of the living room.
Prosecutors made the argument that the apartment looked different to the victim’s home. They noted there were flowers on a small table and a large clock inside Guyger’s home.
But Texas Ranger David Armstrong — who was a lead investigator — testified that Guyger’s apartment had a similar layout to the neighbor she shot.
During his testimony, defense attorneys showed photos to the jury that compared Guyger’s apartment layout to that of Jean’s home.
Armstrong said both Guyger and Jean had their couch and TVs in the same position.
Photos comparing views of the hallways, parking garages and doorways on the third and fourth floor of the apartment complex were also shown to the court.
When questioned by defense attorneys, Armstrong agreed that they looked similar.
Armstrong also testified that the door of Jean’s apartment did not close properly because it had a structural flaw.
At the time of her arrest, Guyger said she had found the door of the apartment she thought was hers ‘slightly ajar’.
She claimed the door opened when she used her electronic key to enter the apartment and she believed she was being robbed when she saw Jean.
Armstrong said it appeared the screws in the strike plate of Jean’s door had been screwed in too far, which caused it to ‘bow out’.
This flaw prevented the door from closing properly as it was designed to do, Armstrong told the court.
He said it meant that the door would sometimes latch but other times it wouldn’t secure and close properly.
Defense attorneys said Jean’s door was open the day Guyger entered his apartment and shot him dead.
Armstrong went on to testify that he doesn’t think Guyger committed a crime.
‘I don’t believe that (the shooting) was reckless or criminally negligent based on the totality of the investigation and the circumstances and facts,’ Armstrong said.
The jury wasn’t present when he said he believed she acted reasonably after perceiving Jean as a threat. The judge later ruled that the jury couldn’t hear the Texas Ranger’s opinion of the reasonableness of Guyger’s actions.
In the jury’s presence, Armstrong testified that going to the wrong apartment was common at that complex.
Armstrong said he interviewed 297 of the 349 residents living at the apartment complex. He said 46 of those residents had mistakenly gone to the wrong floor and put their key in the door before.
The percentage was higher for those living on the third and fourth floors — the same floors as Guyger and Jean — with 38 saying they had unintentionally walked to the wrong apartment.
Armstrong also said that 93 of the residents had parked on the wrong floor in the parking garage on previous occasions. He said 76 of those residents lived on the third or fourth floor.
Botham Jean was a native of St. Lucia who was working in Dallas for PricewaterhouseCoopers — an accounting and consulting firm.
He had come to the U.S. in 2011 after winning a place at Harding University in Arkansas so he could remain within a religious community while getting his education.
He studied business administration and accounting and management and graduated in 2016. PwC hired him out of college as a risk assurance associate.
At his funeral, which was attended by hundreds of people, Jean was described as a talented and passionate man who excelled at everything and worked with orphans.
He had also confided to his uncle that he might one day want to be prime minister of his native Caribbean island country of St. Lucia.
‘Our prince royal was snatched from us by the quick-to-trigger finger of one trained to protect and serve,’ Jean’s uncle, Ignatius Jean, said to applause at his funeral.
‘Perhaps the good that might overcome this violent, heinous act will be that those who are trained to serve and protect will serve love and peace and not violence and bullets.’
Jean’s death sparked protest and outrage in the African-American community, which saw the case as potentially another one of a white officer getting off lightly for killing a black man.
Critics, including Jean’s family, wondered why it took three days for Guyger to be charged, why she was not taken into custody immediately after the shooting and whether race played a factor in her decision to use deadly force.
Guyger was arrested 72 hours after the shooting. She was initially charged with manslaughter before a grand jury chose to indict her on the more serious charge of murder. She wasn’t fired from the force until two weeks after Jean’s death.
Police came under fire during the investigation after the victim’s family accused officers of trying to ‘assassinate’ Jean’s character.
They also expressed fury that authorities sought a search warrant that resulted in the discovery of marijuana in the victim’s apartment.
Lee Merritt, one of the Jean family attorneys, said the search warrant, which allowed investigators to look for drugs, should have never been issued.
He said investigators wasted no time in digging for dirt they could use to smear Jean’s name. Within hours of Jean being shot, they asked a judge for a warrant to search his home for drugs, among other things.
They showed that, among the things, police found a small amount of marijuana — 10.4 grams and a marijuana grinder.
The news came the same day that mourners at her son’s funeral remembered him for his religious convictions and kindness.
‘To have my son smeared in such a way, I think shows that there (are people) who are really nasty, who are really dirty and are going to cover up for the devil Amber Guyger,’ she said.
After the charges were announced against Guyger, Jean’s mother said: ‘I truly believe that she inflicted tremendous evil on my son. He didn’t deserve it. He was seated in his own apartment.’
Jean’s family filed a lawsuit against Guyger and the city of Dallas following the shooting. The federal suit argues that Guyger used excessive force in the shooting and contends the department did not give her adequate training.