A Texas jury has served up actual justice in the case of a white killer cop who shot an unarmed Black man, Botham Jean, to death in his own apartment. Amber Guyger has been found guilty of murder in the case. As recently as yesterday, though, the outcome was far from certain.
A little over a year ago, a white police officer named Amber Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean — an innocent, unarmed Black man — in his own apartment. Mr. Jean was Guyger's upstairs neighbor, and her official defense is that she was "tired" at the end of her shift, and mistook his apartment for her own. Astonishingly, witnesses testified that it was SUPER EASY to get off the elevator on the wrong floor at that apartment complex, so WHO COULD BLAME her for not paying enough attention to her surroundings to notice that the door she claims was ajar was not in fact her own apartment's?
Who could blame her for entering (not her) apartment after she concluded (not her) apartment was being burglarized? And who can blame her for choosing the MOST deadly tool around her waist to interact with the legal, rightful resident of the (not her) apartment she was standing in instead of the least? Who can blame her for not maybe staying out and calling for back-up if she thought there was a break-in? (During which time she might have noticed that this was indeed, NOT HER F*CKING APARTMENT?)?
You'd be reasonable to think that the jurors in her trial could blame her for any or all of these things. She was the trespasser, and the innocent, unarmed Black man who lived there was murdered. For ZERO reason, except (going out on a limb, here) racism.
Yes, you'd THINK the jurors could blame her, but the judge had instructed the jury that they can find another way NOT to blame her. It involved the Castle Doctrine. It's similar to the Stand-Your-Ground laws, only you can apparently be standing on ANYONE'S ground, or in anyone's castle, as it has come to be legally understood.
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The Castle Doctrine, similar to the Stand Your Ground Law, allows a person to use “or using force (even deadly force) in the protection of a home, vehicle, or other property if someone attempts to forcibly enter or remove an individual from the premises.
This, along with the "Mistake of Fact" principle that has been allowed to be considered at Guyger's trial makes it basically look like this: "She thought she was in her own apartment. That was a mistake, but while she was mistaken, she thought she was protecting her castle." Or some such nonsense. So, you know. Go easy on her. She just screwed up a little. Sure some innocent Black man is dead, but who's to quibble?
The Assistant District Attorney, Jason Hermus, that's who.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus addressed Guyger’s decision to use deadly force in his closing argument.
“We’ve long suspected she made that decision in the hallway. The trial confirmed that. She was in a position of safety – behind a steel door — outside the door. She knew there was someone inside. She assumed it was an intruder. And she decided that she was going to engage him. That means she had options; deadly force wasn’t necessary.”
Hermus reminded jurors that Guyger could see Jean after opening his door.
“She has a whole belt of tools. She chooses the gun; the most lethal,” he said. “She shot him dead in the heart. That is not a mistake shot. That’s a well-aimed shot,”
Not only that, if a police officer is using the excuse that she was "tired" at the end of her shift, isn't that MORE reason to call for help in the form of back-up, rather than to engage a potential burglar oneself?
Tweeters had thoughts about this Castle Doctrine application. If used by the jurors to acquit Guyger, it would be beyond absurd and the very embodiment of the racism our criminal justice system.
While State District Judge Tammy Kemp did instruct the jury they could consider this defense, she also allowed them to consider manslaughter (instead of only murder) when they sentenced Guyger. So, in a sense, one could say she compensated for making it easier to acquit by making it also easier to convict. On the whole, though, it's awful that our country's laws and psyche make it so damn easy for a white officer to kill unarmed Black people with impunity that we would even need to walk this legal tightrope.
Botham Jean was an innocent, 25-year-old Black accountant who was in his own home, watching football and about to eat ice cream when a white police officer entered his apartment and shot him dead with two bullets. And Texas law gives jurors as many ways as it can possibly think of to set her free for it.
This morning, though, that jury came through. They disregarded Guyger's defense that she was tired, and that her alleged "mistake" of entering the wrong apartment was enough to absolve her of murdering a young Black man. They refused to allow her white tears and transparent attempts to convince the jury that she wishes SHE were the one who had died (oh, boo HOO, honey) on the stand to sway their understanding of what is reasonable under the law.
It is high time police officers be held to higher standards of behavior. They need to have a HIGHER tolerance of fear. A GREATER impulse towards de-escalation. BETTER judgement. And a more reverent regard for the lives of the civilians around them, no matter how much melanin they possess. Finally, a jury agrees.