A recap of the Guyger trial is not the best title to describe this post, which details what was otherwise a riveting criminal case that only to some degree received the attention it deserved. Here, I try my best to capture the many components of the Guyger trial, reported by various outlets, in a manner to bring to you the tremendous facts, both obvious and not, that captured those that paid any attention.
This case involved Amber Guyger, a Dallas police officer, that entered the wrong apartment and shot and killed Botham Jean, a young black man in his twenties. Guyger contended that she thought she had entered her apartment, and upon discovering Jean, believed him to be an intruder, and shot him twice. Her defense was the Mistake of Fact defense, the rarely used criminal defense, wherein someone commits a crime, but because of a mistaken understanding, would not have done so.
The next question that immediately surfaced, was how could she have entered the wrong apartment, and not known it was hers?
Here’s the facts that were both reported and/or presented at trial:
- Guyger had just gotten off a 12-hour shift and was returning home to her apartment and complex.
- The apartment complex’s parking garage was structured so you parked on the same floor as your apartment.
- Guyger contended she parked on the wrong floor, the fourth floor, when she normally parks on the third floor, where her apartment was located.
- Distracted by earlier texts she was exchanging with a male police officer, she walked to what she believed to be her apartment, only to notice that the door was unlocked.
- She testified she could hear someone was inside.
- She drew her gun, entered the apartment, testified she ordered Jean to put his hands up, and when he started approaching her (again according to Guyger’s testimony) she shot him twice, killing him.
- Jean’s apartment had a red floor mat out in front of his front door, Guyger’s did not. A distinction the prosecutor pointed out that Guyger should have recognized.
- A number of the text messages that occurred just prior to Guyger parking in the wrong location, were never recovered, as they were through SnapChat – an app that automatically deletes a text some ten seconds after you send it.
- Other text messages that were recovered demonstrated an explicit back and forth between Guyger and another officer, who is believed to be either a former or current lover.
- A pathologist testified at trial that the bullet entered Jean up near his pectoral muscle and exited out near his waist, suggesting he was bending over as if he was standing up, or trying to protect himself when he was shot.
- Moments before Guyer entered the hallway, Jean had been seated on his couch eating a bowl of ice cream.
- The across the hallway neighbor, another young black man named Joshua Brown, testified that he heard the gunshots, never heard Guyger say anything at all, including warning Jean or advising him to put his hands up, and further heard her out in the hallway call the police in a panic, rather than trying to assist Jean from bleeding to death.
- Guyger was reported to have had a First Aid kit on her, which she never used after she shot Jean.
- On the 911 call, she told the dispatcher approximately 20 times that she thought “it was her apartment” when she had walked in.
- Earlier that same morning, Guyger had lodged a noise complaint against Jean.
- Joshua Brown, the across the hall neighbor, testified that he often heard Jean singing gospel music in the morning from his apartment.
Guyger asserted the Castle Doctrine in her defense, which is a doctrine recognized in Texas where if one shoots and kills someone in an effort to protect their home, you cannot be convicted of murder. The argument was put forth by her attorneys, even though she was mistaken about the apartment having been hers, because it was a “genuine” mistaken belief they contended she was otherwise entitled to assert the Castle Doctrine.
The jury, who consistent of 5 black members and 7 white members, convicted Guyger of murder and sentenced her to ten years in prison (In Texas, a jury decides sentencing after additional evidence, not the judge which is customary in most states).
After the conviction, and prior to sentencing, Jean’s brother took the witness stand to address Guyger directly. Rather than expressing anger, he asked to give her a hug in the courtroom, which the judge allowed.
After Guyger was convicted and sentenced, Judge Tammy Kemp, a black female judge, gave Guyger a bible and a hug. Her actions have been a topic of fierce debate ever since. A thorough article on the subject can be found here.
Joshua Brown, the young well-spoken black man who testified to Jean’s gospel singing across the hall, moved out of his apartment to anew complex immediately. Brown was known to be extremely fearful of being a victim of violence, be it police or otherwise.
Mr. Brown was killed just ten days after the verdict, as he was exiting his car at his new apartment complex, shot in the mouth and chest. Dallas police are still investigating the shooting.