Juror: Botham Jean wouldn’t have wanted ‘harsh vengeance’
DALLAS (AP) — Two members of the jury that convicted a white Dallas police officer of murder in the fatal shooting of her black neighbor said the diverse panel tried to consider what the victim would have wanted when they settled on a 10-year prison sentence.
Prosecutors had asked jurors to sentence Amber Guyger to 28 years, which was how old her neighbor Botham Jean would have been if he was still alive. But one of the two jurors — a white man who wasn’t named by ABC News — said the jury was moved by testimony from Jean’s family and friends, who described his deep faith and caring nature.
“We all agree that (the shooting) was a mistake, and I don’t think Bo would want to take harsh vengeance,” the juror said, referring to Jean by his nickname. “I think he would want to forgive her.”
Guyger shot Jean inside his own apartment in September 2018 after working a long shift. She said she mistook his fourth-floor unit for her own, which was directly below his.
After convicting Guyger of murder, the jury could have sentenced her to anywhere from two years to life in prison. When the jury’s 10-year sentence was handed down Wednesday, a crowd outside the courtroom reacted angrily, believing it was too short.
The other juror who spoke to ABC News — a black woman — said her reaction when hearing prosecutors’ sentencing request was: “I can’t give her 28 years.”
“I know a lot of people are not happy about the 10 years,” she said. “But I felt like ... this case was not like any other case.”
She drew distinctions between the death of Jean and those of other unarmed black men who have been killed by police in recent years.
“Those officers that killed unarmed black men, when they got out, they went back to living their lives,” she said. “Amber Guyger, ever since she killed that man, she has not been the same. She showed remorse and that she’s going to have to deal with that for the rest of her life.”
On Friday, the Jean family stood with Dallas activists and religious leaders asking the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a broad probe of the Dallas Police Department.
Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the family, said at the news conference that Guyger’s trial revealed that the city’s police are incapable of investigating their own. He called on police Chief U. Renee Hall to invite the Justice Department to do a “comprehensive audit” of her police force.
Guyger was transferred into the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on Friday, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department said.
All new Texas prisoners undergo physical and mental health screenings during which they can identify themselves as former law enforcement officers and say whether they believe they need special protection, according to Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel. The department keeps a list of high-profile prisoners and holds some people in protective custody, but Desel said he could not provide any information on where Guyger will be imprisoned until she’s been through the two- to four-week screening.
In another matter, the judge presiding over the Guyger trial has accused Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot of violating her gag order in the case. In an order setting a Oct. 31 hearing, Judge Tammy Kemp said an on-camera interview with Creuzot that aired Sept. 22 on a Dallas television station was a “direct violation” of her order. The hearing is to allow Kemp to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court.
In the interview, Creuzot explained why he thought Guyger, who was fired soon after the shooting, was correctly charged with murder. A spokeswoman for Creuzot didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.