It followed a high-profile seven-day trial that reconstructed the evening of Sept. 6, 2018, when Guyger mistakenly entered Botham Jean’s apartment. The off-duty officer said she thought she was in her unit, one floor below, and that the 26-year-old accountant was burglarizing her home.
But Guyger, a white woman who had just finished a long shift at work, was on the wrong floor of the building. In a matter of seconds, prosecutors said, Jean — an unarmed black man watching TV and eating ice cream in his own apartment — was dying on the ground, a fatal gunshot wound in his chest.
The shooting touched off days of protests in Dallas and demands for police reform. Many saw it as another egregious example of a white officer killing an unarmed black man, part of a pattern of police wielding deadly force disproportionately against people of color.
But the unusual facts of this case made it unique among other high-profile fatal police shootings, most of which are never even prosecuted.
During the trial, Guyger took the stand, offering a tearful defense and repeated apologies.
“I shot an innocent man,” she said during her testimony, the first time the public had heard from her since the shooting.
Guyger’s lawyers have said the 31-year-old, who was fired from the police force shortly after she killed Jean, was exhausted and scared when she heard someone inside the unit she thought was her own that night. She opened the door, saw a “silhouette figure” in the dark apartment and feared for her life, they said. She said she asked to see his hands, but he just walked toward her. She fired two shots.
By her own admission, she was shooting to kill.
But because she believed she was in her own home, her legal team argued, she was within her rights, acting in self-defense. It was “a series of horrible mistakes,” the lawyers said — “awful and tragic, but innocent.”
Dallas County District Court Judge Tammy Kemp ruled Monday that the jury could consider the “castle doctrine,” a controversial law that says your home is your castle and you have a right to defend it. As The Washington Post’s Katie Shepherd reported, 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.”
The prosecution cast Guyger as careless and negligent — armed, distracted and too quick to pull the trigger. The state’s lawyers called her defense “garbage” and “absurd.”
They said a reasonable person would have noticed the illuminated apartment numbers that read 1478, rather than 1378, and would have seen Jean’s red doormat. She wasn’t paying attention, prosecutors said, because too caught up in a sexually explicit conversation 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.”
Prosecutors also questioned why Guyger even opened the door when she suspected someone was inside, arguing that police training teaches officers confronting a burglar to take cover and call for backup.
“For Amber Guyger, Mr. Jean was dead before that door ever opened,” said Jason Hermus, the lead prosecutor.
Jurors had to decide whether Guyger was guilty or not guilty of murder or manslaughter.
Shortly after they began deliberating on Monday, one of the Jean family attorneys, civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt, told reporters that the ruling would have far-reaching consequences.