Amber Guyger, the former Dallas police officer convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of her unarmed neighbor, Botham Jean, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday.
The jury, which found Guyger guilty of murder Tuesday, reached an unanimous decision on the sentence after listening to Jean's and Guyger’s families, friends, and coworkers over two days of emotional testimony.
While judges usually determine sentences for defendants, Texas allows juries to do so.
Guyger was facing between 5 to 99 years in prison after the jury found her guilty of murder. However, Judge Tammy Kemp allowed the jury to consider the “sudden passion” defense, which carries a reduced sentence of 2 to 20 years. This meant jurors were able to consider whether Guyger killed Jean in an act of “sudden passion” caused by unforeseen anger or terror “sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection.” However, jurors ultimately decided the defense did not apply.
During the sentencing proceedings Tuesday, prosecutors presented jurors with new evidence consisting of Guyger’s text messages and social media posts. In one text message exchange last year, Guyger joked about a Martin Luther King Jr. parade she was patrolling. After someone texted Guyger, “When does this end lol,” Guyger replied, “When MLK is dead… oh wait…”
Guyger and Martin Rivera, her police partner with whom she was having an affair, also exchanged text messages about working with black police officers. “Damn I was at this area with 5 different black officers!” Rivera texted Guyger last year. “Not racist but damn.”
Guyger replied, “Not racist but just have a different way of working and it shows.”
Jurors were also shown memes about killing people that Guyger had saved on her Pinterest account. One meme featured a Minion that said, “No one ever thanks me for having the patience not to kill them.” Another meme saved to Guyger’s Pinterest account read: “Kill first, die last, one shot, one kill." In a caption on another meme, Guyger wrote: “Yeh I got meh a gun a shovel and gloves if I were u back da fuck up and get out of meh fucking ass.”
Jurors heard from Jean’s family and friends, who described him as a bright, ambitious young man with a big heart and a passion for singing and helping others.
Jean’s parents talked about the impact losing their middle son had on their lives.
"My life has not been the same," his mother, Allison Jean, told the jurors. "It's just been like a roller coaster. I cannot sleep, I cannot eat."
Jean’s father, Bertrum Jean, broke down several times while recalling memories of raising Jean in Saint Lucia and now missing his regular telephone calls every Sunday.
"My son Botham was dear to me,” he told the jurors in tears. "How could this happen to our family? How could we have lost Botham?"
Jean’s close friend Alexis Stossel described him as “my person.”
"Next to my husband, Botham was my person. ... I can't imagine living my life without my other person,” she said.
Stossel said that Jean called her “Big Tex” because she was a tall girl from Texas and that he always made her refer to him as “my black friend, Botham” in photo captions.
She broke down when she recalled the last text message she received from Jean the night he was killed. It read, “LOL.”
Stossel said that she didn’t read the text until the next morning when she learned that he had been shot.
"I slumped to the floor and just kept screaming, 'Wait wait wait wait,’” she said.
She then called Jean on his phone seven times but there was no answer, she said.
Guyger’s family, friends, and coworkers also testified about her character, describing her as a “bubbly,” “outgoing,” and “positive” person who had a lifelong dream to become a police officer and help others.
Guyger’s mother, Karen Guyger, testified that when her daughter was 5 years old she was molested by Karen’s live-in boyfriend at the time.
Guyger’s friend Maribel Chavez told jurors that Guyger felt “immense remorse” for killing Jean.
Chavez said that even before the shooting, Guyger felt “she’s not worthy of love.”
“This happened, and she doesn’t feel like she deserves to have any kind of happiness,” Chavez said.
LaWanda Clark, a person who used to have an addiction to crack cocaine, testified about how Guyger’s words and actions helped her turn her life around after Guyger wrote her a ticket at a crackhouse in 2017.
Clark said that Guyger told her that she didn’t “fit the profile” of someone with a drug addiction and that she could use the ticket as her way out of her out of the situation.
“She let me know that I matter,” Clark said. “She didn’t see me as an addict.”
Clark said that Guyger attended her graduation from the community drug program. “She was elated,” Clark said.
After the sentencing, Botham Jean's younger brother, Brandt Jean, was allowed to directly address Guyger from the witness stand. He told the former cop he forgave her.
"I love you as a person and I don't wish anything bad on you," Brandt Jean said.
He then walked over to Guyger and hugged her in the middle of the courtroom as she cried in his arms.
Speaking to reporters after the sentencing hearing, Allison Jean called on the city of Dallas to "clean up" the police department. She criticized the investigation into her son's killing and the training that Guyger received.
"Ten years in prison is 10 years for her reflection and for her to change her life but there is much more to be done by the city of Dallas," Allison Jean said. "The corruption that we saw during this process must stop."