It took less than two days for a Texas jury to reject Amber Guyger’s defense in the killing of Botham Jean as nothing more than a bad mistake. The former police officer now faces up to 99 years after being convicted of murdering her neighbor, whom she shot after entering his apartment thinking it was her own:
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 1, 2019
A Texas jury rejected former Dallas police officer Amber Guyers self-defense claims and convicted her on Tuesday of murder in the fatal 2018 shooting of an innocent man eating ice cream in his own home after mistaking his apartment for her own.
The 12-member jury reached its verdict deliberating for less than two days. Guyger stood and stared at the panel as the jury foreperson read the decision of guilty.
The family members of Botham Jean, the neighbor Guyger shot to death on Sept. 6, 2018, burst into tears as the jury granted them a measure of justice.
The 31-year-old Guyger, who was fired from the Dallas Police Department days after the shooting, faces a prison sentence of five to 99 years.
The verdict for murder came as a bit of a surprise, especially after the jury apparently asked for more guidance about the castle doctrine for self-defense shootings. The castle doctrine in Texas law gives people the right to use lethal force to defend themselves or others inside their own home if they feel threatened. The presumption was that the jury was considering Guyger’s testimony that she legitimately thought she was in her own home when she shot Jean. That would indicate against a murder verdict — although perhaps it could have indicated a conviction on a lesser charge, such as negligent homicide.
The jury did have that option. Instead, Guyger got convicted on the top count and now faces a long time behind bars:
Amber Guyger was found guilty of murder on Tuesday for fatally shooting her neighbor, Botham Jean, after thinking he was an intruder when she mistakenly entered his apartment.
She faces a maximum of life in prison.
The jury was tasked with deciding whether or not Guyger, 31, acted reasonably when she used deadly force, and if the prosecution had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that she intentionally killed Jean or if a lesser charge of manslaughter, which involves reckless conduct, was warranted.
The case had a ton of baggage surrounding it — police shootings, race relations, the castle-doctrine issue, and more. The politics of those issues will likely get injected again into the sentencing of Guyger, who might get as little as five years, as noted above. Given her lack of criminal record and lack of criminal intent in this case, I’d expect the judge to go light, perhaps more in line with a manslaughter verdict. If she does, though, there will be a lot of people who will wonder whether Guyger gets mercy for being white, being a cop, or being a white cop. Those questions will not disappear with this verdict.
Update: CBS reports on the reaction inside the courtroom from both families:
"There was audible sobbing inside the courtroom…You had sobbing on one side from Guyger's family. Amber Guyger, herself, was seen kind of shaking from the back side. For Botham Jean's family…there were different types of tears," @OmarVillafranca says https://t.co/UIG7QbOLWY pic.twitter.com/4xqCHEL8eW
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) October 1, 2019
Did manslaughter fit the circumstances of this crime better? Absent some established malice and intent, one would think so, but clearly the jury felt that Guyger’s recklessness met the bar for the higher charge. The prosecution succeeded in selling that argument after all. It might be that the jury wanted to make sure Guyger did real time for the conviction rather than leave probation open as a possibility, too.
Update: More reaction shots from ABC:
Outbursts in courtroom follow reading of guilty verdict for ex-Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in wrong apartment killing.
— ABC News (@ABC) October 1, 2019
Sentencing will begin almost immediately, apparently.
Update: Jean’s pastor thanked the jury and the prosecutors for delivering. “God is still in control,” he added:
Botham Jean's pastor speaks after former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger is convicted of murder: "This verdict is exactly what we were looking for" https://t.co/55wUD3Dhgc pic.twitter.com/TtUP2wi0t8
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 1, 2019