DALLAS — The jury has sentenced Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer turned convicted murderer, to 10 years in prison for the killing of Botham “Bo” Jean.
Guyger, 31, was convicted Tuesday of murder for gunning down Jean, 26, on Sept. 6, 2018, in his apartment at South Side Flats, the complex where both lived. Guyger, who lived in the apartment directly below Jean’s, went to the wrong floor and apartment by mistake and, according to her trial testimony, believed him to be an intruder.
The Associated Press reported that the sentence was met with boos and jeers from the crowd outside the courthouse. One woman called the sentence "a slap in the face" to Jean and his family.
As Jean's parents and siblings left the courthouse, the crowd chanted, AP reported.
“No justice, no peace! No justice, no peace!” the crowd shouted.
Guyger, who is white, faced two to 99 years in prison or a life sentence for the murder of Jean, who was black. She was taken into custody at the end of court proceedings Tuesday and spent her first night behind bars.
In one of the more remarkable moments of the day Tuesday, Botham Jean's 18-year-old brother, Brandt Jean, forgave Guyger for killing him.
“If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you,” Brandt Jean said. “I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.”
The teen then asked permission to give Guyger a hug.
“Please?” he asked Dallas County District Judge Tammy Kemp, who relented.
Jean and Guyger met near the judge’s bench and embraced for several moments as he continued to whisper in her ear. Weeping could be heard in the courtroom and even Kemp was wiping tears from her eyes.
Guyger did not testify on her own behalf during the penalty phase, which wrapped up with closing arguments Wednesday afternoon. According to the proceedings, jurors were allowed to consider whether Guyger acted with “sudden passion” when she killed Jean that night.
If they believed she had, it would warrant a shorter sentence than if she had not.
Dallas County prosecutor LaQuita Long asked jurors to sentence Guyger to no less than 28 years in prison -- a year for each of the number of birthdays Botham Jean, a native of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, would have celebrated on Sunday.
“We were all robbed of Botham and the greatness that he brought to Dallas County,” Long told the jury in her closing. “Who knows what his impact might truly have been had his life not been taken from him.”
Defense attorney Toby Shook said his client has true remorse for having killed an innocent man.
“She feels horrible for what she did,“ Shook told the jury. “For the rest of her life, every day, every hour, every minute, she’ll think of what she did to Botham Jean and regret it in every bit of her soul.”
Jurors began deliberating her sentence around 2:30 p.m. and took just over an hour to reach their decision.
The first full day of the penalty phase began Wednesday morning with testimony from Alexis Stossel, a college classmate of Jean's who described losing one of her best friends, and Jean's father, Bertrum Jean, who wept while talking about his son. According to Dallas Morning News reporters in the courtroom, several jurors wept along with Bertrum Jean.
Guyger’s mother, Karen Guyger, also took the stand Wednesday morning, telling jurors her daughter, who she said was sexually abused at the age of 6, has wanted to be a police officer since childhood. Through her own tears, Karen Guyger testified about how remorseful her daughter has been over killing Botham Jean.
“She wanted to take his place. She always would tell me she wishes she could’ve taken his place. She feels very bad about it,” Karen Guyger said.
Amber Guyger testified Friday that she wished her and Botham Jean’s roles had been reversed and that he had been the one firing the gun that night.
The defendant’s sister, Alana Guyger, echoed her mother’s testimony, adding that her sister no longer “has the same light or energy” she had before the fatal encounter.
“She’s expressed to me how she feels bad spending time with her family, because he can’t be with his,” Alana Guyger said.
The entire trial has been streamed live on Court TV. Click here to watch the sentencing phase.
At the start of the sentencing phase Tuesday, Kemp overruled defense objections to the introduction of Guyger’s personnel file, as well as her social media records.
Her personnel records showed she had been denied employment with the Fort Worth Police Department before she went to work as a Dallas patrol officer. According to The Dallas Morning News, she also admitted on her Dallas application to prior drug use, specifically the use of marijuana on a handful of occasions.
Sgt. Robert Watson, Guyger’s supervisor on the department’s Crime Response Team, testified that a handcuffed suspect got away from Guyger in August 2018. She did not immediately tell Watson what happened, he said.
On cross-examination, he agreed with defense attorney Robert Rogers’ assertions that Guyger was a dependable and hardworking officer.
‘Stay low, go fast; kill first, die last’
Some of Guyger's text messages over the past couple of years were introduced as prosecutors tried to show her potential racial bias when she killed Botham Jean. One exchange was from January 2018, as Guyger worked Dallas' Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, the News reported.
“When does this end?” an unidentified person texted to Guyger.
“When MLK is dead … oh, wait,” Guyger replied.
In her closing, Long addressed the texts.
“Is this what it means when we say we want to serve and protect the community?“ Long said. “What community are we talking about?”
A racially-charged March 9, 2018, text exchange between Guyger and her former partner and lover, Martin Rivera, was also highlighted. Testimony during the trial showed that Guyger and Rivera had been a sexual relationship, which prosecutors argued Guyger distracted when she arrived at what she thought was her apartment the night she shot Botham Jean.
Guyger and the defense denied the accusations, claiming the romantic aspect of the partners’ relationship was long over despite sexually explicit texts and messages Guyger and Rivera shared the day of the shooting.
She was on the phone with Rivera as she parked on the wrong level of the parking garage at South Side Flats. A span of three minutes and 40 seconds elapsed between the end of that call and the 911 call Guyger made to report she had shot someone, according to testimony.
In the March 2018 text exchange, Rivera stated: “Damn, I was at this area with five different black officers! Not racist, but damn.”
“Not racist, but just have a different way of working and it shows,” Guyger responded.
Several offensive memes were also found on Guyger’s Pinterest account, including one which reads, “People are so ungrateful. No one ever thanks me for having the patience not to kill them.”
Another stated: “I wear all black to remind you not to mess with me because I’m already dressed for your funeral.”
“Stay low, go fast; kill first, die last; one shot, one kill; no luck, all skill,” a third read.
Shook told jurors the memes and texts were just a small window int Guyger's life and urged them to view her entire life before making a decision on her punishment.
‘He lit up a room’
A large portion of Tuesday’s testimony focused on Botham Jean and who he was. Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, told jurors about her family’s life on St. Lucia, an island in the Caribbean.
Botham Jean, who she described as highly intelligent and very active in extracurricular activities, attended the island’s top high school, where he urged a teacher to start a choir.
“He started a choir because he loved to sing, so he got one of his teachers to commence a choir, and he was the one leading in that choir,” Allison Jean testified.
Allison Jean smiled, but was visibly holding back tears, as Long showed her photos of her son, which she identified before they were submitted into evidence.
Watch Botham Jean's mother, Allison Jean, testify below, courtesy of CBS Dallas-Fort Worth.
The photos, which included images of Botham Jean at school and with his family, were displayed on large screens for jurors and members of the gallery to see. One photo depicted a beaming Botham Jean with his grandmother at his high school graduation. In his hand is a large trophy he earned for his discipline, dedication and academic excellence.
After high school, Botham Jean came to the U.S. for college. Allison Jean said she had hoped her son would attend school in the West Indies, so he was closer to home, but he chose the United States instead.
“Botham was a very headstrong child, and he preferred to study at Harding University, which was in Searcy, Arkansas,” Jean said with a smile.
His decision to enroll at Harding was based on the fact it was a Christian university affiliated with the Church of Christ, the family’s denomination, Jean testified. That affiliation would also give him an opportunity to continue his singing, his mother said.
“We have a simple life, one of faith,” Jean testified of life in St. Lucia. “And that’s how we raised our children, in the church.”
Botham Jean’s older sister, Allisa Findley, was already a longtime resident and naturalized citizen of the U.S. when he chose to attend Harding, and Botham wanted to be closer to her, Allison Jean testified. Although the university was expensive, she and her husband were determined to send their son there after seeing how quickly he made friends on a weekend visit at the school.
“Seeing how elated he was, I had no choice but to accept that he would go to Harding,” she said.
Harding University president Bruce McLarty shared a favorite memory of Botham Jean last year in the aftermath of the shooting. He wrote that he asked Jean one night to sing an old hymn that went well with the topic of discussion that night.
The student did not know the song.
"He came up that evening and was just smiling and excited about leading it. He told me he had never heard the song before, but that day, he called back to St. Lucia and asked his grandmother to teach him that old hymn on the phone," McLarty wrote in a tribute the school's website. "So he shared it with us at Lectureship that night, and it was a truly special moment."
Allison Jean talked about her son’s outreach in his community, whichever community it might be at any particular moment in his life. He once found out an elderly woman on St. Lucia shared his mother’s March 11 birthday, so he and his friends brought her a cake, did some work around her home and sat and sang with her.
In another photo shown Tuesday, he was pictured singing to a blind man he was visiting in St. Lucia. A third photo showed a grinning Botham Jean hugging a friend at the annual Churches of Christ Caribbean Lectureship, where he sang the year before his death and for several years before that.
Each year, the conference is held on a different Caribbean island, his mother testified. The photo of Botham shown in court was taken in Jamaica.
“He was a song leader,” Allison Jean said. “Because Botham sang very well, he was placed as one of the people who would be leading the congregation in singing.”
Botham Jean was honored in July at the 49th annual church conference, which this year was held in Bermuda. According to The Royal Gazette in Bermuda, 18-year-old Brandt Jean honored his slain brother by singing Just a Little Talk with Jesus, Botham Jean's favorite hymn.
After graduating from Harding University, where he was also very active on campus, Botham Jean began working as an accountant for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
His direct supervisor, Kerry Ray, also testified Tuesday. Ray said Botham Jean was a nice, personable young man.
“(He) lit up a room,” Ray said. “He got along with everybody. He was one of those guy who, when he started his internship, we immediately felt comfortable with him.”
Botham Jean was offered a position following his internship. Ray said the company knew right away that Botham Jean would be a good fit, in part because he was both personable and “very sharp.”
He explained for jurors that the company deals with a bevy of compliance and regulatory matters on a daily basis.
“It’s a field where you need to use your brain a lot, and you need to solve problems,” Ray testified. “He was very good at solving problems, as well as working with the client.”
Watch testimony from Kerry Ray, Botham Jean's boss, below, courtesy of WFAA in Dallas.
Ray described Botham Jean as an excellent worker who was always looking for ways in which to improve himself.
“He always wanted to do more,” he testified.
Ray described Botham Jean as an integral part of the Dallas office of the company.
“A lot of people knew Bo, and anyone who knew Bo had a very high opinion of him,” Ray said. “When he went to a meeting, or he joined your group, or whatever it was, you knew Bo. He was just a big personality, nice person, big smile, never really had a bad thing to say about anybody.”
Ray said Botham Jean’s co-workers, with whom he had worked for three years, have taken his killing hard.
“Not seeing him on a daily basis, not having that guy to lift you up, it’s been tough,” Ray said
He told Long he last saw his friend and colleague the week before he died because Ray was at an out-of-town conference the week of the shooting. They spoke every day, however, and kept in communication via text and email -- up until the night Botham Jean died.
“I just remember sending him a few messages on the plane while I was getting ready to take off that night, and I know by the time I landed, he was no longer with us,” Ray testified.
‘Everybody’s in pain’
Allison Jean described Botham Jean, who would have turned 28 on Sunday, as the “glue” that held his siblings together. There is about a 20-year age gap between Findley and their younger brother, Brandt Jean.
Botham, the middle child, was about 10 years apart from each of his siblings.
“He was able to relate to Allisa and bring Allisa to Brandt and vice versa,” Allison Jean testified. “Botham was also this take charge type of person, so he was always giving advice both to Allisa and to Brandt. Although he was the younger brother, he treated her like he was the older brother.”
Jean elicited a laugh from those listening in the courtroom when she said Botham’s height, which made him tower over his sister, aided him in his protective role.
“He assumed the role of big brother although she was 10 years older than him,” Jean said.
Allison Jean sobbed at times as she talked about her son's death. The News reported that jurors turned their chair toward the grieving mother as she spoke.
One juror turned his head away and stared at the wall for several minutes as Jean wept over her slain son, the newspaper said.
Her testimony turned to the dark day in September 2018 when she learned her son had been shot and killed. Allison Jean said she was in New York with her daughter when they learned the devastating news.
“At 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 7, she came to inform me that she had gotten a call and that somebody told her that Botham was shot and that he died,” Allison Jean said, struggling to get her words out before breaking down in tears.
Offering Jean a box of tissues before continuing, Long asked how her life has been since the day she learned her son was dead.
“My life has not been the same,” Allison Jean told the court. “It’s just been like a roller coaster. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. It’s just been the most terrible time for me.”
She told jurors she has been unable to focus on work in the past year but tries to busy herself to keep her mind off her loss. She returned to work in January, but described daily life as “very, very difficult.”
“I’ve been sick often,” Allison Jean said, her eyes down as she appeared to gaze inward. “I have tried to keep the family together because everybody’s in pain.”
Jean said she has sought counseling in the aftermath of the murder. She has also turned to her faith.
“I have tried to pray, fast, do all sorts of things just to help me get by,” Allison Jean said.
Guyger testified during her trial that she believed Botham Jean was an intruder in her home when she fired two shots from her service weapon, striking Jean in the chest. He died of the damage the slug did to his heart as it tore through his body.
He was unarmed when he was killed.
Defense attorneys argued that Guyger’s actions were reasonable and justified under Texas’ “castle doctrine” law, which is similar to other states’ “stand your ground” laws. Guyger testified Friday that she saw Jean in silhouette, coming toward her, and feared he might be armed.
Prosecutors argued, however, that Guyger abandoned her training as an officer when she barged into the apartment -- from which she testified she heard “loud shuffling -- instead of retreating to safety and calling for backup.
The medical examiner who conducted Jean’s autopsy also put Guyger’s claims into dispute. Jean was either lying down or bending over, crouching or coming up off his sofa when the bullet struck him, entering above his left nipple and traveling downward through his heart, diaphragm, stomach and intestines before embedding in a muscle near his spine, Dr. Chester Gwin testified.
Testimony indicated Jean was eating ice cream and watching TV when he was killed.
Allison Jean testified Tuesday that Botham Jean’s death has been a test of faith for the entire family, but it has been particularly hard on her younger son, Brandt Jean, who was close to his older brother and spent the summer of 2017 with him in Dallas.
“When Brandt was leaving, Botham called, crying, because he didn’t want Brandt to leave,” Allison Jean said.
She said Botham Jean told her he had to work a lot over the first of the three weeks Brandt spent with him, and he regretted not taking enough time with his baby brother.
“He really wanted him to stay,” Allison Jean said.
When asked how Brandt Jean is processing his brother’s death, his mother told Long she is concerned about her youngest child, who keeps his emotions about the shooting bottled up. He was angry at first, she said, punching walls in anguish.
Now he is very quiet about his grief. Brandt Jean has also undergone counseling.
“He doesn’t speak much, so I’m not sure what’s going through his mind.” Allison Jean said.
She described Botham Jean’s relationship with his father as a good one, with Botham offering his father advice, just as he did with his siblings.
“His dad preaches as well, and he would call his dad, especially on a Sunday,” Allison Jean said. “They would go over the sermon, and he would always tell his dad, ‘Why didn’t you do the sermon this way? Why didn’t you look at it from that way?’ Why didn’t you use that Scripture?’
“They were very close. We had a very, very close family.”
Allison Jean again wept as she recalled a year Botham Jean, who called his mother “GG,” short for “governor general,” flew from Arkansas to St. Lucia to surprise her for Mother’s Day.
“I was sleeping (that afternoon) and I heard, ‘GG!’” she said. “I was, like, ‘That’s Botham’s voice, but maybe I’m dreaming.’ So I closed my eyes again, and he just came and laid down on me on the bed.”
The distraught mother put her arm around her younger son, Brandt Jean, as her daughter, Findley, took the stand Tuesday, the News reported. The siblings' father, Bertrum Jean, patted his son's back.
Findley, 37, bowed her head as prosecutors played video of Botham Jean singing during services at his church, the newspaper said.
“Are those hard to watch?” Long asked Findley.
"His voice," Findley responded.
Long asked Findley what she thinks when she hears Botham Jean’s voice.
According to the News, she shook her head and pursed her lips before taking a deep breath.
“That I want my brother back,” she said.
Watch a portion of Bertrum Jean's testimony about his son's death, courtesy of the News.
Bertrum Jean, who wept Tuesday as he recalled bathing, feeding and caring for his son as a baby, said he tries to be strong for his family.
“As the man of the home, I have to be strong for them,” he testified. “We spend a lot of time together. We go out for dinner, we speak about him, although Allisa is not there, but we communicate with her, the times my wife calls. Just seeing the boys in the background, the grandchildren, it just motivates us to keep his memory alive. But I have to be strong. I try not to shed tears in front of them.”
Jean told the court he has not been able to watch videos of his son singing since his slaying.
“I’m still not ready for it,” Bertrum Jean said. “It hurts me that he’s not there.”
When shown a photo of himself and his wife at Botham’s funeral and asked what he was thinking in that moment, Bertrum Jean had a heartbreaking reply.
“How could that happen to us, our family? How could we have lost Botham, such a sweet boy?” Bertrum Jean testified through tears. “He tried his best to live a good, honest life.
“How could it be possible? I’ll never see him again.”
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