A crowd reacted with anger and disbelief at the Frank Crowley Courts Building after a jury sentenced former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger to 10 years in prison for the murder of Botham Jean.
“No justice, no peace!” about a dozen people chanted outside the courtroom at about 4 p.m. Several women addressed dozens of media outlets outside the courtroom, saying 10 years was not nearly enough time for Jean’s murder.
The scene inside the courtroom was quite different. After reading a victim impact statement from the stand, Botham Jean’s younger brother, Brandt Jean, walked over and hugged the woman who killed his older brother.
“I love you,” Brandt Jean said to Guyger. “I don’t wish anything bad on you.”
Guyger sobbed in the 18-year-old’s arms for about a minute before sitting beside her defense attorneys.
Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother, spoke outside the courtroom after the trial ended.
She said Guyger should use her 10 years in prison as a time of reflection and to change her life. Meanwhile, she said Dallas needs to make changes, such as better training for police.
“If Amber Guyger was trained not to shoot in the heart, my son would be standing here today,” she said.
She also said corruption they saw during the investigation of Jean’s death must end, such as the contamination of a crime scene. The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and police department, saying the department trained officers, including Guyger, to use excessive force.
“The city of Dallas needs to clean up inside. The Dallas Police Department has a lot of laundry. The Texas Rangers need to know who’s on board. And every single one of you, citizens of Dallas and residents of Dallas, need to know what to do to make your city right.”
Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys representing the Jean family in their civil lawsuit, said prosecutors had hoped Guyger would receive 28 years, because that’s how old Botham Jean would have been if he had not been killed.
Outside the courtroom, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said he expected Guyger’s sentence to be longer than 10 years, but respected the jury’s decision.
“As I said from the outset, this was a murder charge and not a manslaughter charge,” Creuzot said. He cited Guyger’s testimony in which she said once she shot at Botham Jean, she intended to kill him.
Creuzot encouraged people to take note of Brandt Jean’s message of forgiveness. He said in his 37 years in the courtroom, he had never seen anything like the moment the teenager hugged Guyger.
A rally described as a “celebration for black lives” was planned outside the Dallas courthouse at 6:30 p.m. Several of the speakers in the hallway referred to the rally as a protest after Guyger’s sentence was announced.
The Jean family, his church family and members of the community planned on holding a vigil at 7 p.m. at the Dallas West Church of Christ at 3510 N. Hampton.
A jury found Guyger guilty of murder Tuesday after deliberating for five hours. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Guyger’s and Botham Jean’s friends and family members took the witness stand to testify in the punishment phase of the trial.
About 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, the jury began deliberating Guyger’s sentence.
Emotional testimony on both sides took several hours Wednesday.
Botham Jean’s father, Bertrum Jean, talked about about how his son’s death has impacted him while on the stand.
“How could this happen to him?” he said. “In hindsight, what could we have done? I’ll never see him again. It’s hard not hearing his voice.”
Guyger’s sister, mother and friends gave accounts of her bravery and dedication to her job as a police officer. One woman testified that Guyger helped her get help for her drug addiction after Guyger met the woman at a drug house while working as a police officer.
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This story was originally published October 2, 2019 5:06 PM.