Fate of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger on trial for wrong-apartment murder in hands of jury

Botham Jean was fatally shot in his own apartment on Sept. 6, 2018.

September 30, 2019, 2:54 PM

A Texas jury began deliberations in the apartment-mixup murder case of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger on Monday after prosecutors told them in their closing argument that she made a series of "unreasonable decisions" that cost an innocent man his life. Defense attorneys countered that she made "reasonable" mistakes that led her to believe her life was in jeopardy.

Before the closing arguments in the high-profile case commenced, Dallas County District Court Judge Tammy Kemp gave the jury a series of instructions, including giving the panel the option of weighing whether Guyger committed murder or manslaughter when she mistakenly entered the apartment of her neighbor, Botham Jean, and fatally shot him believing he was an intruder.

Fired Dallas police officer Amber Guyger becomes emotional as she testifies in her murder trial, Sept. 27, 2019, in Dallas.
Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP

"For almost 13 months, the family of Botham Jean has been waiting for justice," Ben Crump, the lawyer for Jean's family, said in a statement. "Today, with the case in the jury’s hands, we pray for a just verdict and a peaceful response in the community."

Shortly after the defense rested its case, Dallas County Assistant District attorney Jason Fine stood before jurors and asked them to reject Guyer's "crazy" contention that she shot the 26-year-old Jean in self-defense because she believed she was in her own apartment and that the victim, who was sitting on his couch eating ice cream, was going to kill her.

Fine began by reading from a piece of paper an excerpt from Guyger's testimony last week, in which she said, "I never want anybody to have to go through or even imagine going through what I felt that night."

"Are you kidding me? That is garbage," Fine said, crumpling up the paper and throwing it in the trash. "Most of what she said was garbage. Ninty-nine percent of this trial has been about the defendant."

Fine asked the jury, which was sequestered for the trial, to put themselves in the shoes of both Jean and Guyger when they entered the deliberation room.

"He's eating ice cream on his couch. So, if you're sitting and eating ice cream you get shot in the heart? Is that what we're saying?" Fine said.

"This has to do with that defendant making unreasonable decisions that put her in that seat and Bo in the ground," Fine said pointing to Guyger at the defense table.

Fine also said it was "absurd" for Guyger to use the so-called Castle Doctrine, Texas' version of "stand your ground," which allows people to use lethal force in self-defense against an intruder in their own home.

"I mean, my God. This is crazy. It was unreasonable -- she should've known she was in the wrong apartment," Fine said, noting that Guyger, a police officer with thousands of hours of training, missed numerous clues that she was at the wrong apartment, including standing on a bright red mat in front of Jean's unit.

Fine said Guyger made the decision to kill when she found the door unlocked and went into Jean's apartment "commando-style" believing she was confronting a dangerous burglar.

"Nobody had to die. She caused his death. She acted unreasonably," Fine said.

He said such a defense was designed to be used by people like Jean to protect themselves against an intruder, "not the other way around."

In this Sept. 21, 2017, file photo provided by Harding University in Searcy, Ark., Botham Jean leads worship at a university presidential reception in Dallas.
Jeff Montgomery/Harding University via AP

Defense attorney Toby Shook countered that the prosecution failed to prove the case against Guyger beyond reasonable doubt and used "distractions" such as the texting between her and her lover, her married police partner Martin Rivera. He discounted the prosecution's argument that Guyger did nothing or very little to save Jean's life after shooting him, saying, the "hard truth" was that first-aid wouldn't have prevented Jean from dying.

Shook described Jean's shooting as a "horrible perfect storm" and that Guyger made a "horrible horrible mistake" that did not rise to the level of murder or even manslaughter.

"You can hate her, but you can't convict her" based on emotion, Shook said.

The summations of the defense and prosecution came after Guyger testified Friday that on the night of the shooting she was tired from a long day at work and mistakenly parked on the wrong floor. She said the parking floors at her apartment building were not clearly marked.

She reenacted how she reached the apartment door, with her backpack, lunchbox and police vest in her left hand, and testified that she heard the sound of someone walking inside.

When Guyger put the key into the lock that night, she said she noticed the door was "cracked open" and that putting the key into the lock forced the door open to the dark apartment. Guyger said earlier she had experienced problems getting the door to lock completely at her apartment.

Jean, an accountant for the international auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, was sitting on his couch when Guyger opened the door, prosecutors said.

Guyger said she saw the silhouette of a figure, so she pulled her "gun out and I yelled at him."

She told the jurors the figure was moving around and she could not see his hands, and that the man "was yelling, 'Hey! Hey! Hey!' in an aggressive voice."

Guyger reenacted the next moment for the jurors, holding her right hand out as if she was holding a gun. Guyger said Jean was moving toward her when she fired.

Her attorney asked why she fired, and Guyger replied, "I was scared he was gonna kill me."

Mourners attend a public viewing before the funeral of Botham Shem Jean at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ in Richardson, Texas, Sept. 13, 2018.
Shaban Athuman/The Dallas Morning News via AP, File

After the shooting, Guyger said she realized she was not in her own apartment and "had no idea where I was at," so she went outside to look at the apartment door.

Guyger told the court she did a sternum rub on the victim, which is often performed by EMTs.

"I wanted him to keep breathing," she testified. "The state he was in, I knew it wasn't good."

But during cross-examination, prosecutors accused Guyger of not giving Jean undivided attention for CPR.

Guyger admitted to trying to perform a "little CPR," but she said she kept getting up to figure out where she was and tell 911. Guyger also admitted to stopping CPR to text her married police partner to come help.

The officer also testified that she didn't take her first aid kit out of her backpack to use and said she did not have any blood on her uniform or shoes.

During cross-examination, Guyger said she could have called for help on her radio or backed out of the apartment instead of reaching for her gun. Speaking softly, she admitted her intention was to kill Jean when she pulled the trigger.

Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus told the jury in his opening statement last week that Guyger fired so quickly she gave Jean "no opportunity for de-escalation, no opportunity for him to surrender."

"Bang, bang. Rapid," Hermus said.