Botham Jean's Brother Forgives And Hugs Ex-Cop As She's Sentenced To 10 Years For His Killing
A jury has sentenced a former Dallas police officer to 10 years in prison for the shooting death of her unarmed neighbor in his home last year. Amber Guyger wasby the same jury in the death of Botham Jean.
The sentence was met with boos and jeers by a crowd gathered outside the courtroom. But Jean's younger brother, Brandt Jean, as he addressed Guyger in a victim impact statement after the sentence, told Guyger that he forgave her and that he loved her as he would any other person. He asked the judge if he could hug Guyger, and the two embraced.
"I'm not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother — I personally want the best for you," Brandt Jean, 18, said. "I wasn't going to 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."
Brandt Jean said Guyger should give her life to Christ, because that's what his brother would have wanted. Jean was known for his volunteer work and his kindness to others.
Judge Tammy Kemp then got down off the bench, and spoke with Jean's family members and embraced them. Kemp then spoke with Guyger and gave her a Bible. The judge and Guyger also embraced.
In tearful testimony Friday, Guyger, who is white, said she mistook Jean's apartment for her own when she found his door ajar and opened fire, thinking he was an intruder. Jean, a black St. Lucia native who worked as an accountant, had been sitting on his couch eating ice cream.
Guyger faced anywhere from five years to up to life in prison. The jury rejected a "sudden passion" defense that would have reduced the sentencing range from 2 to 20 years. Prosecutors argued for a sentence of no less than 28 years — the age Jean would have turned on Sunday.
Since delivering their guilty verdict on Tuesday, jurors heard testimony and evidence from prosecutors and defense attorneys in the trial's punishment phase before they reconvened Wednesday to weigh Guyger's sentence.
Prosecutors pointed to Guyger's racially insensitive text messages and social media posts espousing violence, suggesting it showed her true character. One meme Guyger saved on Pinterest read: "People are so ungrateful — no one ever thanks me for having the patience not to kill them."
Another Pinterest post read: "I wear all black to remind you not to mess with me, because I'm already dressed for your funeral." Guyger commented beneath the image, "Yeah I got meh a gun, a shovel and an gloves if i were u back da f---- up and get out of me f---- a---."
Jurors saw text messages from Guyger's phone sent as she worked a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Dallas in 2018. When she received a message asking when the parade ended, she responded, "When MLK is dead...oh wait..."
She also made racist comments about fellow officers who are African-American. Prosecutors showed a text from her police partner that read: "Damn, I was at this area with five different black officers. Not racist but damn"
Guyger replied: "Not racist but just have a different way of working and it shows."
Lee Merritt, a civil attorney representing the Jean family, said the evidence "paints a completely different picture than the crying, tearful, remorseful person who was on the stage."
Prosecutors also pointed to emotional testimony from Jean's family and friends recounting the devastating impact his loss has had on their lives.
Jean's father, Bertrum Jean, took the stand Wednesday and broke down as he testified.
"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?" Jean said, crying. "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."
Guyger's attorney Toby Shook asked jurors not to judge Guyger's character solely based on the text messages and social media posts, but on her life as whole. He pointed to testimony from her family and friends describing her as kind and loving and as someone who wanted to help others through public service.
Among those to testify in support of Guyger was Officer Cathy Odhiambo, who described Guyger as a longtime friend who dreamed of being a police officer when they waited tables at a TGI Fridays. She said the two of them went through the academy and them came through the police ranks together.
"Everybody that knows her knows that Amber is the sweetest person," said Odhiambo.
LaWanda Clark, who is black, said she met Guyger when the former officer busted a drug house, and that it helped change her life. She was struggling with a crack cocaine addiction, and that Guyger, while ticketing her, told her it could be the catalyst for turning around her life. She said Guyger treated her as a person, not an addict, and that she's now sober.
As Clark spoke, Guyger's lawyers showed jurors a photo of Guyger attending Clark's graduation from a community drug treatment program.
Guyger will be eligible for parole after serving five years in prison.