More than a year after she fatally shot Botham Jean, 26, in his Dallas apartment on Sept. 6, 2018, a trial for Amber Guyger is now underway in the city. She is facing murder charges. The defense rested its case Monday, and prosecutors rested their case against Guyger on Thursday afternoon. The jury went for deliberation on Monday afternoon.
Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, told 9-1-1 dispatchers and investigators that she mistakingly entered Jean’s apartment thinking it was her own after ending a lengthy work shift. In their building, Jean’s apartment was one floor directly above Guyger’s. She was still in uniform, and Jean was unarmed. The incident sparked national outcry amid a string of fatal police shootings of unarmed black men.
Though the case was at first investigated as an officer-involved shooting, Guyger was off-duty at the time, and the investigation protocol changed by the next day to include charges against Guyger, according to the Dallas Police Chief.
Here’s what to know about the trial.
What has happened at the trial so far?
The defense rested its case on Monday, allowing for closing statements and jury deliberation. During closing statements, prosecutor Jason Fine said Guyger missed five cues that should have alerted her that she was at the wrong apartment, and said the jury should think from Jean’s perspective. “Nobody had to die. She caused his death. She acted unreasonably,” he said.
But Toby Shook, Guyger’s attorney, urged the jury not to let their emotions get in the way of their verdict. He called the case a tragedy, one with no winners, and added that the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Guyger was not acting in self-defense. “If they can’t do that, it’s not guilty,” he said.
Amber Guyger took the stand on Friday, the fifth day of the trial. Through tears she told the court she was sorry, and said she wished it had been her who died that night. “I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life,” she said. It was the first time she’s spoken publicly since the shooting.
Guyger demonstrated for the jury the way the events unfolded the night of the shooting. Defense attorney Toby Shook had Guyger stand up and demonstrate what happened in a reenactment of the night. Guyger began sobbing as she was handed a bullet proof vest to begin the demonstration. Judge Tammy Kemp then announced a recess to allow Guyger to compose herself.
The state of Texas rested its case against Guyger on Thursday afternoon, the fourth day of a trial that was expected to last two weeks. On Thursday, Texas Ranger Michael Adcock testified that Guyger did not have blood on her uniform and that her latex gloves appeared unused — the prosecution suggested this was a sign she did not attempt to save Jean’s life after shooting him.
The first day of the trial was spent by the prosecution detailing all of the cues they argued Guyger missed that could have alerted her to being in the wrong location. Prosecutors also detailed sexually explicit text conversations between Guyger and another police officer the day of the shooting to put into question if she was actually fatigued after leaving work. This is an argument put forward by the defense.
On day two of the trial, Jean’s neighbor from across the hall, Joshua Brown, told the court he met Jean for the first time earlier in the day on Sept. 6, 2018, the day Jean was shot. Brown became emotional, and had to take a break from questioning, after he described that he would often hear Jean singing gospel or Drake songs inside his apartment.
On day three of the trial on Wednesday, Jean’s family witnessed police body-camera footage of the attempt to save his life, CNN reports. Judge Tammy Kemp had requested the footage be played in the court room, and later apologized to the court, saying “I didn’t even give any thought to the victim’s family — the alleged victim’s family being here,” The Dallas Morning News reports.
This was the second time the body cam footage was show in court. The footage had played before jurors on day-2 as well, but the family had been given a warning prior, according to the Morning News.
Also on day three, David Armstrong, the Texas Ranger leading the investigation of the case, told the court without the jury present that he believed Guyger had not committed a crime. (The jury had left the room so Judge Kemp could determine what Armstrong’s testimony could detail, and decided Armstrong could not testify before a jury whether he believed Guyer’s reaction on the night of Sept. 6 was reasonable.) However, while the jury was present, Armstrong told the court that it was common for residents of the apartment complex where Guyger and Botham lived to be confused by the layout, according to the Morning News.
Who was Botham Jean?
Jean grew up in St. Lucia, and moved to Arkansas in 2011, according to Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA, to study accounting and information technology at Harding University. He was a singer, according to a statement from the university, and often led campus events in worship.
“Botham was in the prime of his life,” Jean’s uncle, Ignatius Jean, told the Associated Press.
Jean graduated from Harding in 2016, and moved to Dallas to begin a career at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Tim Ryan, PwC U.S. Chairman, later announced a campaign to address unconscious racial bias after learning of Jean’s killing.
“For many, Bo’s death is the fullest manifestation of the bias that black people in this country regularly experience in their daily lives,” Ryan wrote in an opinion piece for The Dallas Morning News. “As chief executives and business leaders, we may not have the power to stop tragedies like what happened to Bo from happening again. However, we do have power and influence, and there is a lot we can do to address implicit bias in order to make our workplaces and communities more just, equitable and inclusive.”
On Sept. 6, Harding University announced the inaugural recipients of the Botham Jean scholarship at the university’s School of Business Administration. The scholarship was established by Harding and PwC in Jean’s honor.
“In telling [Jean’s] story, we challenge recipients to be great students and campus leaders, and most importantly, to follow Christ with their hearts,” said Bryan Burks, Vice President of University Advancement, in a public statement. “While Botham’s life was cut short, he is remembered through this scholarship that will continue to impact the lives of our students for years to come.”
What has happened since the shooting in September 2018?
At a press conference the day after the shooting, Dallas Police Chief Reneé Hall told reporters that Guyger’s blood was tested for drug and alcohol use — the results of which have not been released publicly, but might be used as evidence in the trial — and a warrant was issued for her arrest. Hall added it wasn’t clear what kind of interaction Guyger and Jean had when she entered the apartment. Guyger shot him, called 9-1-1 and police arrived in four minutes. Jean was taken to a hospital where he later died, Hall said.
Guyger was charged with manslaughter and turned herself in after the police issued a warrant for her arrest three days after the shooting, according to records. The arrest warrant details that Guyger parked on the fourth floor of the apartment complex, though her apartment is on the third floor. When she arrived at the apartment she thought was hers, the door was “slightly ajar” and “fully opened under the force of the key insertion.”
With the door open, Guyger “[believed] she had encountered a burglar, which was described as a large silhouette, across the room in her apartment,” the warrant reads. Guyger said she then gave verbal commands that she claimed were ignored, it continues. “As a result, Guyger fired her handgun two times, striking [Jean] one time in the torso.”
Texas Rangers also arrived the day after the shooting to conduct an independent investigation.
Guyger was fired by the Dallas Police Department on Sept. 24, the same day as Jean’s funeral in St. Lucia. She had been employed by the police department for four years. Jean’s family attorneys called the firing a success, according to the AP, but were committed to seeing her sentenced for murder. Guyger’s attorney, Robert Rogers, called the decision to fire Guyger a bowing “to pressure from anti-police groups,” the AP reported. At the time, it was the first statement released by Guyger’s representatives since the shooting.
Rogers added “words can never express our sorrow for the pain suffered by those who knew and loved Botham Jean.”
TIME has reached out to Guyger’s attorney for comment.
Guyger was later released on a $300,000 bond, according to WFAA.
Adding to the already controversial case, the Dallas Police Department requested a search warrant for Jean’s apartment the day after the shooting occurred. The police found 10.4 grams of marijuana. The publication of the warrant (and its findings) drew immediate backlash, and some called it a “smear campaign” against Jean.
“It’s a pattern that we’ve seen before,” Lee Merritt, one of Jean’s family attorneys, told WFAA. “We have a cop who clearly did something wrong. And instead of investigating the homicide — instead of going into her apartment and seeing what they can find, instead of collecting evidence relevant for the homicide investigation — they went out specifically looking for ways to tarnish the image of this young man.”
By November 2018, a grand jury had upped the charge against Guyger from manslaughter to murder, and she now faces life in prison. Under a manslaughter charge, she faced 20 years in prison, according to the AP.
A jury was selected in September of 2019, and opening statements began Monday.
What could happen to Amber Guyger?
Guyger, 31, is facing life in prison should a jury find her guilty of murder. If she is found not guilty of murder, she could still face lesser charges of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, according to The Dallas Morning News. (That she pulled the trigger and killed Jean is not in dispute.)
The jury, sequestered at the judge’s request, are predominately women of color, according to the Morning News. Ten of the 12 are people of color — five are black. Eight of the jurors are women, and the four alternates are also women.
- Employers Take Note: Young Workers Are Seeking Jobs with a Higher Purpose
- Signs Are Pointing to a Slowdown in the Housing Market—At Last
- Welcome to the Era of Unapologetic Bad Taste
- As the Virus Evolves, COVID-19 Reinfections Are Going to Keep Happening
- A New York Mosque Becomes a Refuge for Afghan Teens Who Fled Without Their Families
- High Gas Prices are Oil Companies' Fault says Ro Khanna, and Democrats Should Go After Them
- Two Million Cases: COVID-19 May Finally Force North Korea to Open Up