Amber Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the murder of Botham Jean. She’ll receive credit for time served. The jury returned with a verdict after about 80 minutes of deliberation Wednesday afternoon. She faced between 5 and 99 years imprisonment. All 12 jurors agreed unanimously on the decision.
The punishment phase included testimony from friends and family of both Jean and Guyger. Jean’s father, Bertrum Jean, broke down on the stand when reflecting about how he’d never see his son again. He said he hadn’t been able to listen to recordings of him singing, one of Botham’s passions. His mother spoke of how he volunteered wherever he went, helping elderly neighbors of his native St. Lucia clean out their backyards and sitting and singing with them afterward. The permanence of the murder hung over the proceedings.
“Botham doesn’t come back from this,” said Lee Merritt, an attorney for the family, before the verdict was returned.
Guyger’s friends and family described her as a different person after the killing, one who would not allow herself to experience joy. Her mother also testified that she had been molested as a child.
Prosecutors presented text messages that expressed racist and violent sentiments from Guyger during the punishment portion that were not allowed in the trial prior to her conviction. Guyger made jokes about pepper spraying civilians during an MLK Parade and commented that her black colleagues had a poor work ethic.
Prosecutors had asked the jury to deliver a sentence of no less than 28 years, which would’ve been Botham’s age if he had not been shot and killed in his own apartment. The state ended with a quote from Bo’s pastor: “To the defendant, Bo was just a silhouette in a room. But to everyone who ever knew Bo, he was the brightest light in the room.”
After the verdict, activists poured out into the hallway yelling about the sentence, chanting “no justice, no peace.” They called for protests. Moments later, during impact statements following the verdict, Botham’s brother, Brandt Jean, asked the judge for permission to hug Guyger. He said he loved her and forgave her. The two embraced in the courtroom. The sound of crying filled the space.
Judge Tammy Kemp came down to visit with the Jean family and embraced them. She then walked to Guyger and hugged her. Kemp appeared to hand her a bible.
UPDATE (5:50) Minutes ago, Mayor Eric Johnson released the following statement:
Now that the criminal justice system has discharged its duties, I want to thank the members of the jury for rendering their judgment in this unprecedented case.
This has been a difficult year for our city. Botham Jean was a man who had so much to offer society and who represented the very best of Dallas. No amount of earthly justice could ever fill the void created by this crime.
My thoughts are and will continue to be with the Jean family. I was deeply moved by Brandt Jean’s words and actions in the courtroom today during his victim impact statement. I will never, ever forget the incredible examples of love, faith and strength personified by Botham, Brandt and the entire Jean family.
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.