Amber Guyger‘s defense team told jurors during closing arguments Monday that prosecutors are relying on “sexting and speculation” to convince them the former Dallas police officer was unreasonable in killing a man in his own apartment.
Attorneys made closing arguments on 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.
Before closing arguments, District Judge Tammy Kemp gave the jury instructions on what constitutes murder and manslaughter. Jurors ended deliberations Monday evening and are expected to continue Tuesday morning.
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.
“I hate that I have to live with this every single day of my life,” she said Friday, 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.
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 Monday, 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.
Guyger testified 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.
Shook told jurors: “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. … 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.
Guyger fails self-defense test, prosecutor says
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 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.”
Civil attorneys for Jean’s family said they believe the verdict should be “nothing less than murder.” They said they considered it a positive step that the jury has been instructed to consider both murder and manslaughter.
S. Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys, said it “could be days” before the jury decides. He said Jean’s family felt a sense of release after the closing arguments.
It was out of their hands, Merritt said, and it’s “now in the hands of strangers.”