Ex-Dallas officer who killed neighbor found guilty of murder

DALLAS (AP) — A white former Dallas police officer who shot her black unarmed neighbor to death after, she said, mistaking his apartment for her own was convicted of murder Tuesday in a verdict that prompted tears of relief from his family and chants of “Black Lives Matter” from a crowd outside the courtroom.

The same jury that found Amber Guyger guilty in the September 2018 death of her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean, will consider her fate after hearing additional testimony starting Tuesday afternoon. She could be sentenced to from five to 99 years in prison under Texas law.

The jury took a matter of hours to convict Guyger, 31, after six days of testimony.

Cheers erupted in the courthouse as the verdict was announced, and someone yelled “Thank you, Jesus!” In the hallway outside the courtroom, a crowd celebrated and chanted “black lives matter.” When the prosecutors walked into the hall, they broke into cheers.

After the verdict was read, Guyger sat alone, weeping, at the defense table.

Jean’s friends and family testified later Tuesday at the punishment phase of the trial, to explain how his death has affected them. First on the stand was Allison Jean, who said her son was killed just before he was due to turn 27.

“My life has not been the same. It’s just been like a roller coaster. I can’t sleep, I cannot eat. It’s just been the most terrible time for me,” she said.

Botham Jean’s sister, Allisa Findley, told the jury that she and her mother cry a lot, her formerly “bubbly” younger brother has retreated as if into a shell, and that her father is “not the same.”

“It’s like the light behind his eyes is off,” Findley said.

She said her children are now afraid of police.

Guyger’s defense attorneys can argue that she deserves a light sentence because she acted out of sudden fear and confusion. The judge is expected to provide guidance on sentencing law.

It is unclear how long the punishment phase of the trial will last.

The basic facts of the unusual shooting were not in dispute throughout the trial. After a long shift at work and still in uniform, Guyger walked up to Jean’s apartment — which was on the fourth floor, directly above hers on the third — and found the door unlocked. Thinking the apartment was her own, she drew her service weapon and entered.

Jean, an accountant from the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, had been eating a bowl of ice cream when Guyger entered his home and shot him.

The shooting drew widespread attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.

“A 26-year-old college-educated black man, certified public accountant, working for one of the big three accounting firms in the world … it shouldn’t take all of that for unarmed black and brown people in America to get justice,” Benjamin Crump, one of the lawyers for Jean’s family, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Crump said the verdict honors other people of color who were killed by police officers who were not convicted of a crime.

Attorney Lee Merritt, who also represents the family, underlined Crump’s words.

“This is a huge victory, not only for the family of Botham Jean, but this is a victory for black people in America. It’s a signal that the tide is going to change here. Police officers are going to be held accountable for their actions, and we believe that will begin to change policing culture around the world,” Merritt said.

The jury that convicted Guyger was largely made up of women and people of color.

Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata declined to comment Tuesday afternoon, saying Guyger’s lawyers asked him to wait until after sentencing. The group, which represents city police officers, has paid for Guyger’s legal defense and security.

The verdict may have defused tensions that began simmering Monday when jurors were told they could consider whether Guyger had a right to use deadly force under a Texas law known as the castle doctrine — even though she wasn’t in her own home.

The law is similar to “stand your ground” measures across the U.S. that state a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder. Prosecutor Jason Fine told jurors that while the law would have empowered Jean to shoot someone barging into his apartment, it doesn’t apply “the other way around.”

Guyger was arrested three days after the killing. She was later fired and charged with murder. Tension has been high during the trial in Dallas, where five police officers were killed in an attack three years ago.

Guyger tearfully apologized for killing Jean and told the jurors she feared for her life upon finding the door to what she thought was her apartment unlocked. Guyger said Jean approached her when she entered the unit with her gun out. Prosecutors suggested he was just rising from a couch toward the back of the room when the officer shot him.

In a frantic 911 call played repeatedly during the trial, Guyger said “I thought it was my apartment” nearly 20 times. Her lawyers argued that the identical physical appearance of the apartment complex from floor to floor frequently led to tenants going to the wrong apartments.

But prosecutors questioned how Guyger could have missed numerous signs that she was in the wrong place, asked why she didn’t call for backup and suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages with her police partner.

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7 comments

  • lml25

    It isn’t murder–it was manslaughter. You’d have to start convicting everyone of murder– who has killed another person–with an automobile.This was unintentional,unless we aren’t privvy to evidence of an unknown dispute between the two. Another example of whites being convicted of illogical charges(see “Stand Your Ground” in Florida). Another upcoming case is the Texas 72 year old white man, who shot a burglar and is now held on murder charges. It’s “get the white man” time–and some whites are foolishly aiding in their own demise.

    • Dan Smith

      I’m sure your family will demand it be manslaughter, involuntarily or otherwise, when a cop comes in and shoots you dead in your home while you’re eating a bowl of ice cream.

      It’s also ironic how you called for the death penalty when the Muslim cop shot a white woman in Wisconsin. Hmmm….

      • lml25

        I’m not going to get shot by a cop in my house–I’m 1000 times more likely to be shot by one of our diverse gangbangers who you look up to and want to fill our city with.
        The Muslim cop was investigating a crime–he acted unprofessionally at best and homicidally at worst.
        The Dallas cop,Guyger,was either looking to intentionally kill the Nigerian(murder)or it was a mistake (manslaughter)for whatever reason.I discount the first scenario completely.

        • Dan Smith

          In her own words on the stand, she pulled her service weapon out BEFORE entering this young man’s apartment with the intent to kill – a gross violation of her police training, in which she was trained to call for backup before entering.

          Not only did she shoot this man, but she failed to render ANY meaningful first aid, as her med kits were untouched when first responders arrived.

          She also took time to text message her married coworker, with whom she was having an affair with, to tell him what she did INSTEAD of rendering first aid/CPR.

          Now, couple these FACTS with the prosecutions exhibit showing her willingness to kill and her disdain for minorities – namely black people.

          She then compounded this by blatantly lying and contradicting herself on the witness stand.

          Could it have been a mistake? Absolutely. But bottom line: her actions leading up to, during and immediately following the shooting doesn’t suggest that it was manslaughter.

  • TOSOR

    This will get overturned this one will get overturned appeal! At the worst negligent homicide or manslaughter.

    Looks like the Witch Hunt is not limited to just the White House.
    .

    • Dan Smith

      I’m sure your family will demand it be manslaughter, involuntarily or otherwise, when a cop comes in and shoots you dead in your home while you’re eating a bowl of ice cream.

      It’s also ironic how you called for the death penalty when the Muslim cop shot a white woman in Wisconsin. Hmmm….

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