The Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger, who killed her neighbor after she entered his apartment thinking it was her own has been found guilty of murder, a jury found Tuesday, as the Washington Post reports.
Cheers could be heard from the hallway outside the courtroom as well as sobbing from the victim’s family due to Tuesday’s verdict.
The verdict came after a high-profile seven-day trial that reconstructed the evening of Sept. 6, 2018, when Guyger mistakenly went into Botham Jean’s apartment.
Guyger, who was off-duty at the time, said that she thought she was in her unit, one floor below and that Jean, a 26-year-old accountant was burglarizing her home.
However, Guyger, a white woman, was on the wrong floor of her building. According to prosecutors, Jean, an unarmed black man was watching television and eating ice cream in his own apartment before he died on the ground due to a fatal gunshot wound to his chest.
The case caused a myriad of protests in Dallas that lasted for days. Many felt like the killing was another egregious instance of a white police officer murdering an unarmed black person, part of a consistent pattern of law enforcement using deadly force disproportionately against non-whites.
Guyger took the stand and made a tearful defense that was filled with various apologies, during the trial.
“I shot an innocent man,” she said while on the stand, the first time she’d spoken publicly since the shooting. Her attorneys stated that the 31-year-old, who has since been fired from the police force, was exhausted and terrified when she heard someone inside of the apartment that she mistakenly thought was her own on Sept. 6, 2018.
According to her lawyers, Guyger opened the door, saw a “silhouette figure” in the dark apartment and feared for her life. Guyger stated that she asked to see Jean’s hands. However, he walked towards her and she fired two shots.
Amber Guyger also admitted that she shot to kill. Her legal team argued that because Guyger thought she was in her own home, she was within her rights, acting in self-defense. Her attorneys said that it was “a series of horrible mistakes” that were “awful and tragic, but innocent.”
On Monday (Sept. 30), Dallas County District Court Judge Tammy Kemp ruled that the jury could consider the “castle doctrine,” a controversial law that states that your home is your castle and you have a right to defend it.
However, Kemp’s decision “raised the bar for prosecutors and sparked outrage and disbelief from critics who questioned how the law could protect Guyger when she shot Jean in his own apartment,” as the Washington Post‘s Katie Shepard reported.
Prosecutors painted Guyger as a careless and negligent former police officer who was armed, distracted, and “too quick to pull the trigger.” The state’s attorneys said that her defense was “garbage” and “absurd.”
They said that any reasonable person would have taken note of the illuminated apartment numbers that read “1478,” instead of “1378,” and would have noticed the victim’s doormat that was red. Prosecutors said that Guyger wasn’t paying attention because she was too enraptured by a sexually explicit conversation that she was having with her partner on the police force.
“I mean, my God,” said Jason Fine, the Dallas County Assistant District Attorney. “This is crazy.”
The prosecution team also questioned why she even opened the door when she thought that someone was inside of the apartment, citing that law enforcement training educates officers confronting a burglar to call for backup and take cover.
“For Amber Guyger, Mr. Jean was dead before that door ever opened,” said Jason Hermus, the lead prosecutor.
The jury was left to decide whether the former police officer was guilty of murder or manslaughter. On Monday, soon after the jury began deliberating, one of the Jean family lawyers, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt told reporters that the verdict would have consequences that reach far.
“The jury is out,” he said, “and what they take back to that jury room, in our opinion, is the decision of the value of black life.”