Attorneys for Dallas Cop Who Killed Black Neighbor Ask to Move Trial

DALLAS (CN) – Attorneys for the white Dallas police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man in his apartment asked Monday to have her murder trial moved, claiming the media’s “hysteria and false narratives” have prejudiced potential jurors. 

Dallas police officer Amber Renee Guyger was arrested on Sept. 9, 2018, on a manslaughter warrant in the shooting of a black man at his home. (Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

The attorneys for former police officer Amber Guyger, 30, argue in a motion filed in Dallas County court it is impossible for her to get a fair trial due to the “pervasive, prejudicial and inflammatory” publicity surrounding the case.

“This coverage has ranged from the absurd like what defendant wore to a court-setting to the outrageous like falsehoods about defendant being a racist and comparisons of the incident to ‘… a form of lynching,’ which was inflammatory nonsense published by the Dallas Morning News, a presumably reputable media outlet,” the 94-page motion filed Monday states. 

The motion lists 297 news articles published since Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean, 26, at the South Side Flats apartment complex south of downtown Dallas on Sept. 7, 2018. Guyger has steadfastly claimed she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was located on a different floor of the building.

Jean was employed as an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas and was a 2016 alumnus of Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.

Dallas police faced intense scrutiny after they requested the Texas Rangers to conduct an independent investigation that resulted in the initial filing of manslaughter charges, which were upgraded to murder charges two months after the shooting. 

Former Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said at the time that her office had “spirited conversations” with the Rangers about whether to seek a manslaughter or murder charge.

Defense attorneys single out Johnson for spearheading “inflammatory media coverage in the community” in violation of Guyger’s Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. 

The defense also blames several public officials who commented on the shooting. Democratic presidential hopeful and former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke called for Guyger’s firing and defense attorneys claim he “perpetrated the false-narrative that defendant shot Mr. Jean because he is black” during a debate with Senator Ted Cruz.

The motion criticizes actress and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg for commenting on the shooting, stating she “never miss[es] the opportunity to inject speculation and nonsense into a narrative.”

“Goldberg laments about a black man ‘smoking (marijuana) while black’ in his home and shouts to the audience, ‘now you understand why people are taking a knee,” the motion states.

“Goldberg also claims that if the situation had been reversed … Mr. Jean ‘would be hanging somewhere by now,’ apparently meaning that 11 days or less after the shooting Mr. Jean would have been lynched. This is inflammatory and utter nonsense,” the motion continues. 

The defense is asking the court to change venue from Dallas County to the suburbs, in Collin, Grayson, Kaufman, Ellis, Rockwall or Fannin counties. 

Guyger is scheduled to go to trial in September and faces up to life in state prison if convicted.

She was fired three weeks after the shooting after the conclusion of an administrative investigation. Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall said Guyger was terminated for engaging “in adverse conduct when she was arrested for manslaughter.”

Jean’s family sued Guyger and the city in federal court in October for wrongful death and violation of his civil rights.

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