Amber Guyger Is Sentenced to 10 Years for Murder of Botham Jean

Ms. Guyger, a white former Dallas police officer, fatally shot her unarmed black neighbor in his apartment.

Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in prison. The brother of Botham Jean, Brandt Jean, hugged Ms. Guyger in an emotional act of forgiveness.

“I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please? Please?” “Yes.”

Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in prison. The brother of Botham Jean, Brandt Jean, hugged Ms. Guyger in an emotional act of forgiveness.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Tom Fox

Marina Trahan Martinez, Sarah Mervosh and

DALLAS — In the moments after the sentence was announced, protesters shouted chants of “no justice, no peace” in the courthouse hallways. But when Botham Shem Jean’s brother took the stand to address Amber R. Guyger, the former Dallas police officer who fatally shot Mr. Jean in his own apartment, he offered only forgiveness.

“I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail,” the brother, Brandt Jean, said, before getting up to wrap his arms around Ms. Guyger. “I want the best for you.”

On Wednesday, a Dallas County jury sentenced Ms. Guyger, who is white, to 10 years in prison in a case that was one of the latest, and also one of the most unusual, in a series of high-profile confrontations between police officers and unarmed black men across America.

The jury deliberated for about an hour and a half before deciding upon a sentence that was well short of the maximum 99 years in prison Ms. Guyger could have received — but also longer than the two years jurors might have imposed.


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Prosecutors had asked for a prison term of no shorter than 28 years, the age that Mr. Jean, whose birthday fell during the trial, would have been if he were alive today.

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The trial displayed the complicated reality of race, policing and justice in America. But the circumstances of the case were unusual from beginning to end, including the moment when Mr. Jean’s brother took the witness stand and asked the judge for permission to hug Ms. Guyger in the courtroom.

A day earlier, after the jury found Ms. Guyger guilty of murder, many had celebrated and praised the jury for returning the most serious verdict that it could. But a murder conviction followed by a 10-year sentence felt like a gut punch to some activists, who promised to protest outside the Dallas County courthouse on Wednesday night.

“Why give a murder conviction and then give 10 years,” asked Dominique Alexander, the president of the Next Generation Action Network, a local social justice organization. “That’s just a slap in the face.”

ImageBotham Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean hugs convicted murderer and former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement.
Credit…Pool photo by Tom Fox

The sentence capped an emotional day in the courtroom, when testimony from both families left some jurors — and even the judge — in tears.


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Originally from the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, Mr. Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, had been living in Dallas, where his family said he was careful to wear Ralph Lauren dress shirts and drive the speed limit to avoid encounters with police.

His father, Bertrum Jean, recalled his routine of speaking with his son on the phone each Sunday, to share moments from church services and photos of home-cooked meals.

“My Sundays have been destroyed,” he told the jury.

The jury also heard from Ms. Guyger’s mother and sister, who testified that in the year since the shooting, her normally upbeat and outgoing personality had faded, as she expressed her regret and a desire to have traded places with Mr. Jean.

“She feels bad spending time with her family because he can’t be with his,” her sister, Alana Guyger, said.

The Dallas County district attorney, John Creuzot, said prosecutors were pleased with the sentence. “Personally, I expected perhaps longer, but I respect what they did,” he said. He urged protesters to look to Mr. Jean’s family, especially his brother. “If they can see his healing,” he said, “maybe they can find some of their own.”

At a news conference after the trial, Mr. Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, said that the family would keep fighting for police accountability. “That 10 years in prison is 10 years for her reflection and for her to change her life,” she said. “But there is much more to be done by the city of Dallas.”


Ms. Guyger was off duty on the night in September 2018 that she came home from work and entered the wrong apartment, one floor directly above hers. Believing she had found an intruder in her apartment, she said, she pulled her service weapon and opened fire. In fact, she had entered Mr. Jean’s apartment and fatally shot him in his own home.

The shooting ignited protests and calls for justice in Dallas, a city with a history of racial tensions with the police. Activists concerned about preferential treatment complained that Ms. Guyger was not immediately arrested at the scene, and was initially charged with manslaughter. A grand jury later returned with the charge of murder.

The case drew widespread attention. A white police officer shooting a black man who had been eating ice cream and watching television in his own apartment raised the question of whether there was any place in America where black men could feel safe.


Bertrum Jean, Mr. Jean’s father, cried on the witness stand on Wednesday while talking about the day he buried his son.
Credit…Pool photo by Tom Fox

But in the end, the case stood apart from other examples across the country in which police officers have been cleared of wrongdoing in the deaths of unarmed black men. Activists looked to the unique circumstances in the case, as well as the diverse jury panel. Of the 12 jurors, five were black, five were Hispanic or Asian, and two were white.

Months before the trial, Ms. Guyger’s lawyers filed a motion to have it moved to a different county because of the publicity. But observers saw another potential motivation: Dallas County is nearly 40 percent Hispanic, 30 percent white, 22 percent black and 6 percent Asian. The alternative counties the lawyers suggested moving the trial to were mostly white and had more politically conservative voting records.

Ultimately, the judge kept the case in Dallas County, where the jury ended up unusually diverse. “When you have that many people of color on a jury as opposed to a majority-white jury, the narrative shifts,” said Changa Higgins, the head of the Dallas Community Police Oversight Coalition. “If this jury was all white, I think definitely we would not be celebrating the victory of justice.”

The diverse jury most likely influenced how the prosecution operated, said Seema Iyer, a lawyer and Court TV anchor. Prosecutors also brought an uncommon passion to the trial, she said, pointing to one, Jason Fine, who called Ms. Guyger’s apology during her testimony “garbage.”

“He was so dismissive about her mistake,” Ms. Iyer said. “He was so confident that the jury would use their common sense.” She added that a predominantly white jury may have been more sympathetic toward Ms Guyger.

Mr. Fine “knew his audience; he spoke to his audience,” Ms. Iyer said of the prosecutor. “He was like, ‘Come on, you guys know what’s going on.’”

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