DALLAS (CN) – Two jurors said Friday they sentenced former Dallas cop and convicted murderer Amber Guyger to only 10 years in prison for killing neighbor Botham Jean because of her remorse and the forgiveness they believe he would have had for her.
Juror 34, a young black woman, said it “was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.”
“They asked for 28 years. I’m going to be honest and true, I was like, ‘I can’t give her 28 years,’” she told ABC News. “I know a lot of people are not going to be happy with 10 years, but I felt this case was not like any other. You cannot compare it to any of those other officers killing black men. Those officers, when they got out, they went back to living their lives. Since Amber Guyger killed that man, she has not been the same. She showed remorse, she will have to deal with that for the rest of her life.”
The eight women and four men of varying ethnicities convicted Guyger, 31, on Tuesday after listening to eight days of testimony.
She erroneously parked on the fourth floor of the South Side Apartments on Sept. 7, 2018, and mistook Jean’s apartment for her apartment that was on the third floor. She entered the ajar door before firing into the dark at what she believed was an intruder, striking Jean in the chest.
Guyger was in uniform as she returned home after working a 15-hour shift. Jean, an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, had returned home minutes earlier and was eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream in boxer shorts in front of his television when Guyger shot him.
Juror 21, a young white man, said he was crying when other jurors said they agreed with the prosecution’s request for a 28-year sentence. Jean would have turned 28 years old five days ago.
“There’s no way we could know what Botham would have wanted, but I think we all had to make a decision that we could live with, that our conscience could be sound with,” he said. “There was a lot of crying. When we were told to decide between five and life, we did not have words.”
He said testimony from Jean’s family portrayed the St. Lucian as a “kind and forgiving” man.
“I told everyone, ‘I am having a hard time with this because we all agree it was a mistake,” he said. “I don’t think Bo would want to take harsh vengeance, I think he would want to forgive her. I didn’t feel like I had any right to speak for him since he was not there to talk for himself.”
Juror 34 said she believes that if Jean survived the shooting, he would have forgiven Guyger. She agreed that the shooting was a mistake.
“No matter how many years we would have gave Amber Guyger, it’s not bringing Botham back,” she said. “The 10 years will be enough time for her to get back out there and try to do something better with her life.”
Both jurors cited the remorse Guyger showed during the nine-day trial. Testifying in her own defense during the guilt phase of the trial, she repeatedly apologized for the shooting.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Guyger said through tears. “I hate that I have to live with this … I feel like a terrible person, like a piece of crap. I hate myself every day, I wish he was the one who killed me.”
Jean’s brother, Brandt, 18, selflessly told Guyger that he forgave her during his victim impact statement after she was sentenced.
“I am speaking for myself – I love you just like everyone else,” Brandt testified. “I am not going to say I hope you rot and die like my brother did. I personally want the best for you. I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you. I love you as a person.”
Brandt then asked Dallas County District Judge Tammy Kemp for permission to hug Guyger. After initially hesitating, she granted the request. A weeping Guyger ran to Brandt and they embraced for over a minute while Kemp wiped her eyes in the background. Audible sniffles and sobs were heard in the courtroom.
The jury was not in the courtroom when the extraordinary scene unfolded. Juror 21 said finding out about it the next day “helped us feel like we made the right decision.”
“They were asking us to take an eye for an eye for Botham,” he said. “I feel like he isn’t someone who would take an eye for an eye. He would turn the other cheek.”
Jean’s older sister, Allisa Findley, said Friday morning that she admires Brandt for forgiving Guyger.
“I pray everyday to get to the point of forgiveness and he is already there,” she said in a statement. “That’s a weight lifted from him. He hugged our brother’s killer to free himself and I stand behind him 100%.”
Findley said she is happy with the murder conviction, and can live with the sentence.
“I cannot imagine the burden placed on these 12 jurors having to decide the fate of an individual,” she said. “I respect their decision and I am moving on to the healing phase.”
Guyger must serve at least half of her sentence before being eligible for parole.