Trial starts for White ex-cop shot dead her black neighbor in his Dallas apartment after ‘mistakenly thinking it was her own’
The murder trial for Amber Guyger, 31,has attracted intense scrutiny for its strange circumstances and as one in a chain of shootings of black men by white police officers
Guyger was off duty but still in uniform when she shot Botham Jean, 26, in his home on the evening of Sept 6, 2018
Defense lawyers have said Guyger fired in self-defense based on the mistaken belief that she was in her own apartment
Her apt was one floor above the victim’s
The murder trial began Monday for former Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger in the 204th District Court at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, Monday, September 23, 2019, presided by Judge Tammy Kemp. Guyger, 31, a member of the Dallas City Police department shot and killed Botham Jean, an unarmed 26-year-old neighbor in his own apartment last year.
She told investigators she mistakenly entered her upstairs neighbor’s apartment thinking it was her own, and thought the individual already there was an intruder.
The case has attracted intense scrutiny for its strange circumstances and as one in a chain of shootings of black men by white police officers.
Lawyers for Guyger are likely to argue she fired in self-defense based on the mistaken belief that she was in her own apartment and that Jean, an accountant from the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, was a burglar.
The case may hang on whether the jury believes that this was a reasonable mistake. Twelve jurors and four alternatives were selected to hear the case earlier this month but their demographics aren’t yet public.
Opening statements were scheduled to begin after a pre-trial hearing. – Just before 10 a.m., prosecutors were asking the Judge Tammy Kemp to allow them to admit evidence including text messages Guyger sent to her partner after the day of the shooting.
lead prosecutor Jason Hermus, has said that the texts “all go to show her state of mind” at the time of the shooting.
The jurors won’t have to decide whether Guyger killed Jean, a 26-year-old accountant from St. Lucia. That is not in dispute. Instead, the jurors will listen to the evidence and decide if Guyger killing Jean was a crime.
She told investigators that after a 15-hour shift she parked on the fourth floor of her apartment complex’s garage – rather than the third floor where she lived – and found the apartment’s door ajar.
Believing she was at her own apartment and seeing a silhouette of a figure who didn’t respond to verbal commands, Guyger said she fired two shots, killing him.
‘I thought it was my apartment,’ she said nearly 20 times in a 911 emergency call as she waited for emergency responders to arrive.
‘I’m an off-duty officer. I thought I was in my apartment and I shot a guy thinking he was, thinking it was my apartment.’
Throughout the five minute phone call, Guyger cursed, cried and urged Jean to stay alive.
‘I’m f****d. Oh my God. I’m sorry,’ she could be heard saying.
Throughout the call, she also spoke to Jean, called him ‘bud’ and encouraged him to stay alive.
Neighbors had already contradicted her version of events by claiming to have heard arguing before the fatal shooting.
One neighbor said they heard a woman in the hallway knocking on a door and yelling: ‘Let me in, let me in.’
Another neighbor then heard gunshots and afterwards claimed to have heard a man shouting: ‘Oh my God. Why did you do that?’
Guyger was only arrested 72 hours later and then charged with just manslaughter.
It sparked anger in the African-American community, which saw the case as potentially another one of a white police officer getting off lightly for killing a black man.
The department took two weeks to fire Guyger despite charging her with manslaughter after Botham’s death.
Following the backlash and a grand jury investigation, Guyger was charged with first-degree murder. The charge is punishable under Texas law with up to life in prison.
The jury will have to decide whether Guyger committed murder, a lesser offense such as manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, or no crime at all.
Jean was a native of St. Lucia who worked in Dallas for an accounting and consulting firm.
He had come to the US in 2011 after winning a place at Harding University in Arkansas.
He studied business administration and accounting and management and graduated in 2016. PwC hired him out of college as a risk assurance associate.
Former Dallas patrol officer Amber Guyger has denied there was malicious intent behind the incident, instead she was a startled resident trying to protect what she believed to be her home
The aim of this jury will be if Guyger’s action on September 6, 2018 amounted to a crime. If so, is it murder? Or a lesser charge like manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide?
Guyger’s attorneys are expected to argue she made a “mistake of fact”: believing she was in her apartment and that she needed to defend herself from someone she thought was a burglar.
If the jury believes a “reasonable” person could have also made that mistake, Guyger could be found not guilty of murder. If they don’t, the jury could find her guilty. If the jury does find Guyger not guilty of murder, they would then deliberate the lesser charges.
Murder is punishable by up to life in prison. Criminally negligent homicide is punishable by up to two years in a state jail.