DALLAS, Texas — A mother and father unexpectedly confronted with footage of their son’s last moments. The former officer who killed him breaking down in tears on the witness stand. A prosecutor’s relentless cross-examination.
The first week of Amber Guyger’s murder trial in the 2018 shooting of Botham Jean was full of tense, emotional moments. Though race has not been a central topic in the courtroom, Jean’s case became a focal point in the national dialogue on policing and the threat of violence people of color face in daily life.
This week, the trial is expected to reach its conclusion, entering its seventh day on Monday as Guyger’s attorneys continue their defense.
Guyger, who is white, is charged with killing Jean, her unarmed, 26-year-old black neighbor, in his own apartment on September 6, 2018. In the days after the shooting, protesters in Dallas chanted Botham’s name in the streets.
“We’re still dealing in America with black people being killed in some of the most arbitrary ways, driving while black, walking while black, and now we have to add living while black,” civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, one of the Jean family attorneys, said at the time.
Guyger has testified she mistakenly entered Jean’s apartment thinking it was hers, and believed she encountered a burglar who might kill her. Dallas police fired her shortly after the shooting. She faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Here are some key moments from the trial so far:
Guyger cries during testimony
Guyger, 31, was the first defense witness to testify on Friday. Her lips quivered and she started crying when she stepped down from the witness stand to demonstrate how she carried her police equipment in one hand and tried to open the door with the other on the night of the shooting.
The judge called a recess.
“I hate that I have to live with this every single day of my life,” she said, in tears.
“I ask God for forgiveness, and I hate myself every single day. … I wish he was the one with the gun who had killed me. I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life,” she said.
Guyger says she intended to kill Jean
Guyger testified she was “scared to death” when she saw the apartment door “cracked open” and a silhouetted figure in the darkness inside.
Jean was on the couch in his shorts, watching TV and eating vanilla ice cream when Guyger walked in, prosecutors said.
Guyger said she drew her service weapon and shouted, “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!” The figure moved toward her in a “fast-paced walk,” and she could not see the person’s hands, she testified.
“Hey, hey, hey,” she said the person shouted, and she fired.
Prosecutor Jason Hermus had told jurors earlier in the week that the trajectory of the bullet suggests Jean was getting up from a chair when Guyger fired, or he was on his knees, trying to hide from her. Experts have not been able to conclude Jean’s exact positioning when he was shot.
“When you aimed and pulled the trigger at Mr. Jean, shooting him in center mass exactly where you are trained, you intended to kill Mr. Jean,” Hermus said.
“I did,” Guyger said.
Prosecutor asserts Guyger didn’t tell Jean to raise his hands
On the night of the shooting, Guyger told responding officers that she believed she was in her apartment, but said nothing about Jean coming at her, Hermus said.
Guyger said she was trained in CPR but only “tried to do a little CPR” and a sternum rub on the dying Jean. Hermus asked why would she try to “do a little CPR on a man who’s dying who needs your full attention.” Guyger said that her mind was racing and she was on the phone with the 911 operator.
It didn’t cross her mind that she had first aid supplies in her backpack, she said.
Right after the shooting, Hermus said Guyger found time to text her partner on a crime reduction team. The two had had an affair, but they had broken it off, she said.
During cross-examination, Hermus said Jean’s neighbors across the hall and next door testified they didn’t hear her order Jean to show his hands.
“I can’t tell you why,” she said.
“It’s because you didn’t say it,” Hermus said.
“Not true, sir,” Guyger said, shaking her head.
A mother’s anguish
District Judge Tammy Kemp asked for a police body camera video taken in the last moments of Jean’s life to be played in court Wednesday, during a discussion about evidentiary matters.
The jury wasn’t in the courtroom. But Jean’s family was still there.
The video showed police trying to save Jean’s life as he lay on the floor of his apartment, bleeding from a gunshot wound.
The day before, Jean’s family was able to leave before the same video was played.
Jean’s parents, Allison and Bertrum Jean, bent over in their seats and looked at the courtroom floor. Bertrum held his hands over his ears and turned to the wall next to his seat.
After a few minutes, Botham Jean’s parents and family and friends stood up to leave.
Allison Jean sobbed loudly as she walked out the door. For months, she had been dreading and preparing for moments like this.
The family didn’t know the judge was going to ask to see the footage, S. Lee Merritt, a Jean family attorney, said.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t give any thought to the alleged victim’s family,” Kemp said.
Throughout the trial, Botham Jean’s family wore variations of the color red, his favorite color. He would have turned 28 on Sunday.