Jurors defend giving Botham Jean killer 10 year sentence: ‘She’s shown remorse’
An African American Dallas County juror who served in trial of Amber Guyger said she did not support giving the former police officer who was convicted of murder the sentence recommended by prosecutors.
“They were asking for 28 years,” a Black female juror who was only identified as “Juror 34” said of the prosecution’s recommendation during a Friday interview that aired on ABC’s Good Morning America. “I’m going to be honest and true, I can’t give her 28 years. I know a lot of people aren’t happy about the 10 years but I felt this case was not like any other case.”
Guyger, 31, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for the shooting death of Botham Jean, 26, who lived in the apartment directly above hers in Dallas. After a 13-hour shift, she mistakenly entered his unit, thought he was an intruder, then fatally wounded him. Although people were initially satisfied with the conviction, many expressed frustration with not only the sentence, but with Jean’s family’s gestures of forgiveness to Guyger.
“You can’t compare this case to any of those other officers killing unarmed black men. Those officers that killed unarmed black men, when they got out they went back to living their lives,” she continued. “Amber Guyger, ever since she killed that man, she hasn’t been the same. She’s shown remorse. She’s going to have to deal with that for the rest of her life.”
“One thing Botham can teach us all is that we should all love each other instead of hate each other. If Botham would have gotten just shot and not killed, I think he would have forgiven Amber Guyger.”
In most states a judge determines the sentence of the convicted, but in Texas that person is allowed to choose jury sentencing.
A second juror, a white male identified only as “Juror 21” said that Jean would have wanted forgiveness for Guyger rather than the longer sentence. “I don’t think Botham would want to take harsh vengeance,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I had any right to speak for him, and he isn’t there to talk for himself, but listening to how people talked about him, I felt like he would forgive her.”
Jean Family’s Reaction
Botham Jean’s family has sparked heated debate due to what some see as their rush to forgive Amber Guyger. Now Jean’s brother Brandt is speaking up about the stunning moment when he chose to embrace his brother’s murderer in the courtroom.
During an interview with Good Morning America, also on Friday, Brandt Jean explains why he felt the need to console Guyger and tell her he loved her and he didn’t want to see her in prison, just moments after she was sentenced.
“In usual instances the words mean something but I didn’t think that was enough,” the 18-year-old explains of why he chose to get up from the witness stand and approach the woman who has only been sentenced to 10 years for her crime.
“That was just my gesture… of letting her know I truly forgive her,” he clarifies. “No one else’s way, just my decision.”
“Each and everyone has steps to get to where it’s forgiving. I went through those faster than others. Understand she is a human being. She still deserves love. She made a mistake that she probably truly regrets,” he opined. “I waited one year to hear I’m sorry and I’m grateful for that.”
Jean’s family echoed their son’s sentiment while speaking at a church service a few hours after the sentence was handed down.
“I’m not really surprised because we know how we raised him..the Holy Spirit was working,” Bertram Jean said about his son’s emotional display. “I’d like to become your friend at some point,” he said about Guyger. “I think I have the ability to do it and I would like to be a friend despite my loss. That’s why we are Christians.”
However, Jean’s mother Allison, who had traveled with her husband from their home country of St. Lucia, also emphasized that Guyger must still face the consequences of her actions, which resulted in the death of their son.
“Forgiveness for us as Christians is healing for us, but like my husband said, there are consequences,” she said. “I will leave my forgiveness to Amber to myself.”
Complaint against judge
Meanwhile, although people may or may not have agreed with the family’s response, there were others who did not agree with Judge Tammy Kemp’s display of sympathy after the trial. She was shown giving a bible to Guyger, who then gestured for a hug from her, which she gave.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct against Kemp, citing her behavior.
“We, too, believe our criminal justice system needs more compassion from judges and prosecutors,” the complaint reads. “But here, compassion crossed the line into coercion. And there can be few relationships more coercive than a sentencing judge in a criminal trial and a citizen accused and convicted of a crime.”
Guyger was released early Friday to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to begin serving her sentence, Dallas station WFAA reports.