DALLAS — A 12-person jury here found Dallas cop Amber Guyger guilty of murder Oct. 1 in the killing last fall of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old Black man. Jean was shot while eating ice cream in his own apartment. Guyger, who is Caucasian, had just come off duty at the time and was still in uniform and armed. She claimed she thought it was her apartment and she feared for her life when she saw someone else there. She faces from five to 99 years behind bars.
Jean, a native of the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean, was working in Dallas as an accountant. He was also a part-time preacher and song leader at the Dallas West Church of Christ. Fifteen hundred people attended his memorial service in Richardson, many from St. Lucia and from his alma mater, Harding University, in Arkansas.
Allison Jean, Botham’s mother, a former government official in St. Lucia, told the press she knew her son was a victim of murder “from the very start.”
After weeks of protests, Guyger was fired by the Dallas police. Initially arrested for manslaughter, she was released the same day. As protests continued, her case was taken before a grand jury, which changed the charge to murder.
The weeklong trial was accompanied by pro-cop-slanted coverage in area media, including the Dallas Morning News. The paper reported repeatedly on Guyger’s defense, that the shooting was just a “series of horrible mistakes.”
But the evidence showed Guyger should have been well aware that she wasn’t in her own apartment. Her key to the door didn’t work, and it turned out to be open; there was a red rug welcome mat that she didn’t have; and the apartment was carpeted, unlike hers. Jean was sitting on the couch watching TV. Guyger barged in and shot him two times in the chest.
There was no self-defense involved. “Botham Jean was never a threat to Amber Guyger — never,” prosecutor Jason Hermus told the jury before they left to deliberate. They took only four hours to reach a verdict.
Many of those who had taken part in protests were in the courtroom when the verdict was announced.
‘Victory against police brutality’
“This is an important victory for all opponents of police brutality,” Alyson Kennedy, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Dallas earlier this year and the party’s 2016 candidate for president, told the Militant while on a speaking tour in Georgia. Kennedy got the news of the conviction as she was attending the Atlanta murder trial of ex-DeKalb County cop Robert Olsen, who is charged with shooting Anthony Hill in 2015, killing him. There is no question Hill didn’t have a weapon — he was naked at the time.
“Cop shootings and brutality are aimed at intimidating the working class, and fall disproportionately on workers who are African American,” said Kennedy, who joined others outside the Dallas courthouse Sept. 27. “The Socialist Workers Party calls for all workers to join the fight against police brutality, racist discrimination and the entire capitalist ‘justice’ system, with its frame-ups, plea bargains, onerous bail and outrageous prison sentences.”
Opponents of police brutality lined up outside the courtroom to get a seat at Guyger’s trial. Others waited outside and watched the proceedings live on their cellphones. “It’s not right to be murdered for sitting at home in your living room minding your business,” Michelle Powell, a 29-year-old cosmetologist, told the Militant there Sept. 27. “It’s a shame the lengths the justice system will go to cover officers of the law, to protect them.”
Cops who do face charges of brutality or murder rarely get convicted. But in the last two years, three Dallas County cops have been convicted of murder. In addition to Guyger, Ken Johnson, an off-duty Farmers Branch cop, was convicted of murder in 2017 and sentenced to 10 years for killing 16-year-old Jose Cruz. The following year former Balch Springs cop Roy Oliver was convicted of murdering 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in 2018 and sentenced to 15 years.
These were the first convictions of cops for murder in the county since 1973, when Darrell Lee Cain was convicted in the notorious shooting death of 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez.