Botham Jean's Brother Tells Amber Guyger: "I Forgive You" | KERA News

Botham Jean's Brother Tells Amber Guyger: "I Forgive You"

Oct 2, 2019

The brother of a black man who was killed by a white Dallas police officer in his own home has forgiven and hugged her in the courtroom where she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Addressing Amber Guyger in the courtroom Wednesday after the jury sentenced her to a decade behind bars for killing his brother, Botham Jean, Brandt Jean said he thinks that his brother would want Guyger to give her life to Christ.

He said, “I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you.”

He then said: “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug?”

Judge Tammy Kemp said he could. Jean and Guyger embraced in front of the courtroom as Guyger sobbed. Kemp held a tissue, dabbing her eyes.

Later, Kemp hugged Guyger in front of the packed courtroom.

As Jean’s family walked out of the courtroom, the group that had been outside began a chant of, “No justice! No peace!” Two young black women hugged each other and cried.

Video: Brandt Jean's testimony

Calls for a 28-year sentence

Prosecutors had asked jurors to sentence Guyger to at least 28 years, which is how old Jean would have been if he was still alive.

The jury could have sentenced the former officer to up to life in prison or as little as two years.

The basic facts of the unusual shooting were not in dispute throughout the trial. Guyger, returning from a long shift that night, entered Jean’s fourth-floor apartment and shot him. He had been eating a bowl of ice cream before she fired.

Guyger said she parked on the wrong floor and mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was directly below his, and mistook him for a burglar. In the 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. They also asked why she didn’t call for backup instead of walking into the apartment if she thought she was being burglarized and suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages she had been exchanging with her police partner, who was also her lover.

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.

One of the Jean family lawyers hailed the verdict as "a victory for black people in America" after it was handed down Tuesday.

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

Officials, family react

After the sentence, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot addressed reporters at the courthouse.

”Personally, I expected perhaps longer, but I respect what they did,” Creuzot said. “They gave us their time, they gave this case their attention, and they reached what they thought was a just verdict, and we're going to move on, and I think that the Botham family is moving on also."

Defense attorneys did not immediately comment after the sentence. 

Allison Jean is Botham's mother. 

"That 10 years in prison is 10 years for her reflection, and for her to change her life,” she said.

Jean is calling on reform in the Dallas Police Department.

“There is much more to be done by the city of Dallas," she said. "The corruption that we saw during this process must stop."

At a Wednesday evening press conference at Dallas police headquarters, Chief U. Renee Hall pledged to investigate the actions of officers following the shooting of Jean, and said she would consider policy and procedural changes necessary to build community trust in her officers.

The chief said sworn testimony during the trial that officers tampered with a camera inside the vehicle transporting Guyger away from the scene, “gave me concern,” as did other possible violations of department policy or law that came out during the trial. During the trial, evidence was presented that text messages were deleted during the investigation.

“What you saw and heard was disheartening,” Hall said, adding that perceptions of the Dallas Police Department and law enforcement in general were damaged by the trial’s revelations.

Hall pledged to work to rebuild trust between the department and community members, and said the department is always evaluating itself for ways to improve.

In a statement, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson thanked the jury and says the last year has been a difficult one for the city.

“As a city, we have challenges to address, but I hope that this day will give the Jean family some measure of peace and that our city can begin to heal,” Johnson said.

On Wednesday night, faith leaders and community activists were among those who gathered on the steps of the Dallas County courthouse where the trial took place. 

Later, people marched through downtown Dallas, blocking an intersection.

KERA's Syeda Hasan, Stella M. Chávez, Galilee Abdullah, Domini Davis, Eric Aasen, Christopher Connelly and Bill Zeeble contributed to this report.