Amber Guyger got 10 years in prison Wednesday for murdering Botham Jean, a sentence that set off angry chants outside the courtroom and an unexpected moment of forgiveness inside.
“If you truly are sorry,” Botham’s 18-year-old brother, Brandt Jean, told Guyger from the witness stand before walking down and embracing her, “I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you.”
The victim’s mother, Allison Jean, said Guyger’s sentence would give the fired officer 10 years to reflect and “change her life.” The native St. Lucian also called for change and a renewed focus on police training in the city where her son died.
“There is much more to be done by the city of Dallas,” she said, addressing a crowd gathered around her on the seventh floor of the courthouse. “The corruption that we saw during this process must stop.”
Prosecutors had asked for no less than 28 years, a reminder that Jean would have celebrated his 28th birthday this week if not for Guyger.
She faced between five and 99 years or life in prison, and the jury considered but rejected a “sudden passion” defense that could have reduced her punishment to two to 20 years.
Guyger, 31, was off-duty but still in uniform the night she killed Jean at the South Side Flats apartments just blocks from police headquarters. She said she mistook his apartment for hers and thought he was a burglar.
After a day of testimony focused on how long Guyger would spend in prison, Jean’s 18-year-old brother said in his victim-impact statement that he wished she didn’t have to serve any time at all.
Instead, he said, he wanted for Guyger what his older brother would have wanted.
“I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want for you,” he told her. “I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”
“Can I give her a hug, please?” Brandt Jean asked. “Please.”
As soon as the judge said it was OK, Guyger rushed to the victim’s brother and wrapped her arms around him. They held each other in a long embrace, while sobbing could be heard in the courtroom. State District Judge Tammy Kemp wiped away tears during the moment.
Gathered outside the courtroom, activists shocked by the sentence began chanting, “No justice, no peace.”
Dee Crane, the mother of Tavis Crane, a young black man who was fatally shot by an Arlington police officer in 2017, cried as she asked: “How many of us does it take to get justice?”
“What about my son? What about Botham Jean?” Crane said through tears. “How many of us is it going to take before you understand that our lives matter?”
Later, Botham Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, said the Dallas Police Department has “a lot of laundry to do,” calling for better training of officers.
“If this was applied in the way that it ought to have been taught, my son would have been alive today,” she said. “If Amber Guyger was trained not to shoot in the heart, my son would be standing here today.”
“We love you, Mrs. Jean!” someone called out as attorneys escorted the family away.
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SOURCE: The Dallas Morning News, Jennifer Emily, Dana Branham and LaVendrick Smith