Amber Guyger’s fate hinges on a jury deciding whether she was reasonable to think Botham Jean posed a threat
(CNN) — Amber Guyger’s defense team said Monday that prosecutors are relying on “sexting and speculation” to convince jurors that the former Dallas police officer was unreasonable in killing a man in his own apartment.
Closing arguments began the day after what would’ve been Botham Jean’s 28th birthday. He was killed September 6, 2018, when Guyger walked into his apartment, thinking it was hers, and opened fire on Jean in his living room.
The case is now with the jury, which began deliberations Monday afternoon. Before closing arguments, District Judge Tammy Kemp gave the jury instructions on what constitutes murder and manslaughter.
A week of testimony revealed Guyger had had a sexual relationship with her partner on the force and texted him before and after the shooting, including two texts sent while she was reporting the shooting to a 911 dispatcher.
Her lawyers have said she was tired after working long hours and wasn’t paying attention to the many cues that prosecutors say should’ve tipped Guyger off that she was on the wrong floor, in the wrong apartment. Jean’s apartment was on the floor above Guyger’s.
Guyger, 31, took the stand during the trial, testifying that she hates herself and asks for forgiveness every day. She never meant to take an innocent man’s life, she said.
Prosecutor Jason Fine seized on her testimony — specifically, her assertion that she would never want anyone to endure what she’s gone through — before attacking Guyger as an unreasonable person who decided to kill Jean before she opened his apartment door.
“Are you kidding?” Fine said, crumpling up a piece of paper from which he was reading. “That is garbage. Most of what she said was garbage.”
The case isn’t about politics or supporting police, he said; it’s about whether Guyger reasonably believed Jean meant to harm her. Not only did she miss myriad signs that she was on the wrong floor, Fine said, but she missed signs that Jean posed no threat.
“Because most burglars, what they love to do, they break in without using any force at all … and then you know what they like to do? They like to plop down on your couch, have themselves some ice cream, smoke some weed and watch some TV,” Fine said, referring to testimony about Jean’s actions in the minutes before he was killed.
Stand your ground at play?
Though prosecutors objected to the defense applying castle doctrine or stand your ground laws in the case because Guyger was in Jean’s home, not the other way around, the judge allowed it, and the defense leaned on it in closing arguments.
Attorney Toby Shook asked jurors to consider the evidence from Guyger’s perspective: She thought she was at her apartment, found the door open, went inside and discovered a large man in what she thought was her living room. She felt her life was in danger, Shook said, and acted accordingly.
“The law recognizes that mistakes can be made. It’s always tragic. The law’s not perfect. It’s tragic, but you have to follow this law,” Shook told jurors. “Who would not have sympathy for Botham Jean? Wonderful human being — died in these horrible, tragic circumstances. Who would not have sympathy for his family or anyone in that position? Everyone does, but that is not part of your consideration as a jury.”
Shook accused prosecutors of working to produce an emotional verdict — by introducing Guyger’s past affair, her text messages, how she contacted police and the manner in which she conducted CPR on Jean. The prosecution’s assertion that she did not follow police protocol is also moot because she was off-duty and believed she was walking into her own apartment at the time, Shook said.
“You can be angry with her. You can hate her, but you can’t convict her because that’s no evidence as to the decisions that were made in that apartment,” Shook said.
Fellow defense attorney Robert Rogers focused on the sacrifices Guyger made as a peace officer, describing her as “an ordinary and prudent person who made a mistake.”
Prosecutor Jason Hermus argued that self-defense claims must pass a multi-prong test, and Guyger failed to meet two of the standards: that her use of deadly force was “immediately necessary” and she had no other alternative, and that she needed to employ deadly force to protect herself.
She was safe in the hallway, behind a door when she first suspected an intruder was in her home, Hermus said. She had a police radio and a phone with which to call authorities. She could’ve taken cover behind a nearby set of fire doors or retreated down the hallway, Hermus said. Instead, she chose to become the aggressor, he said.
“She decided from outside, from that position of safety, that she was going to engage what she calls the threat, and she decides how she’s going to do it: by pulling her gun, opening that door and going in to engage him,” Hermus said. “Having failed both of the most important parts of self-defense, she doesn’t get it.”
Here are some key moments from the trial so far:
Guyger cries during testimony
Guyger was the first defense witness to testify Friday. Her lips quivered and she started crying when she stepped down from the witness stand to demonstrate how she carried her police equipment in one hand and tried to open the door with the other on the night of the shooting.
The judge called a recess.
“I hate that I have to live with this every single day of my life,” she said, in tears.
“I ask God for forgiveness, and I hate myself every single day. … I wish he was the one with the gun who had killed me. I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life,” she said.
Guyger says she intended to kill Jean
Guyger testified she was “scared to death” when she saw the apartment door “cracked open” and a silhouetted figure in the darkness inside.
Jean was on the couch in his shorts, watching TV and eating vanilla ice cream when Guyger walked in, prosecutors said.
Guyger said she drew her service weapon and shouted, “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!” The figure moved toward her in a “fast-paced walk,” and she could not see the person’s hands, she testified.
“Hey, hey, hey,” she said the person shouted, and she fired.
Hermus, the prosecutor, had told jurors earlier in the week that the trajectory of the bullet suggests Jean was getting up from a chair when Guyger fired, or he was on his knees, trying to hide from her. Experts have not been able to conclude Jean’s exact positioning when he was shot.
“When you aimed and pulled the trigger at Mr. Jean, shooting him in center mass exactly where you are trained, you intended to kill Mr. Jean,” Hermus said.
“I did,” Guyger said.
Prosecutor asserts Guyger didn’t tell Jean to raise his hands
On the night of the shooting, Guyger told responding officers that she believed she was in her apartment, but said nothing about Jean coming at her, Hermus said.
Guyger said she was trained in CPR but only “tried to do a little CPR” and a sternum rub on the dying Jean. Hermus asked why would she try to “do a little CPR on a man who’s dying who needs your full attention?” Guyger said that her mind was racing and she was on the phone with the 911 operator.
It didn’t cross her mind that she had first aid supplies in her backpack, she said.
Right after the shooting, Hermus said Guyger found time to text her partner on a crime reduction team. The two had had an affair, but they had broken it off, she said.
During cross-examination, Hermus said Jean’s neighbors across the hall and next door testified they didn’t hear her order Jean to show his hands.
“I can’t tell you why,” she said.
“It’s because you didn’t say it,” Hermus said.
“Not true, sir,” Guyger said, shaking her head.
A mother’s anguish
Judge Kemp asked for a police body camera video taken in the last moments of Jean’s life to be played in court Wednesday, during a discussion about evidentiary matters.
The jury wasn’t in the courtroom. But Jean’s family was still there.
The video showed police trying to save Jean’s life as he lay on the floor of his apartment, bleeding from a gunshot wound.
The day before, Jean’s family was able to leave before the same video was played.
Jean’s parents, Allison and Bertrum Jean, bent over in their seats and looked at the courtroom floor. Bertrum held his hands over his ears and turned to the wall next to his seat.
After a few minutes, Botham Jean’s parents and family and friends stood up to leave.
Allison Jean sobbed loudly as she walked out the door. For months, she had been dreading and preparing for moments like this.
The family didn’t know the judge was going to ask to see the footage, S. Lee Merritt, a Jean family attorney, said.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t give any thought to the alleged victim’s family,” Kemp said.
Throughout the trial, Botham Jean’s family wore variations of the color red, his favorite color.