Jury Takes Over in Murder Trial of Former Dallas Cop

Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, center, appears at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas on Saturday. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

DALLAS (CN) – Prosecutors derided fired Dallas cop Amber Guyger’s claims of self-defense as “ridiculous” and “absurd” during closing arguments Monday in her murder trial, arguing she unreasonably shot and killed an unarmed black man in his apartment that she mistook for her own.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Fine dramatically crumpled up and tossed a copy of testimony Guyger, 31, gave last week that she wished her shooting of Botham Jean, 26, on no one.

“Are you kidding me?” Fine asked incredulously. “That is garbage. Most of what she said is garbage. Ninety-nine percent of this trial has been about the defendant. Let’s take one moment to talk about Bo.”

Framing the case as being about “what is reasonable and what is absurd,” Fine described what Jean must have been thinking as he sat on his couch eating ice cream. He ridiculed Guyger’s claim she was defending herself from a deadly threat.

“He is not going to throw the ice cream to kill her,” Fine said incredulously. “He is not going to throw his spoon to kill her. Ridiculous.”

Fine told jurors that they are “the voice” of the community and that “we cannot have police busting into homes” and killing innocent homeowners.

“Not in Dallas, not in Texas. There’s got to be consequences for your actions,” he said. “Bo is dead because of her unreasonable choices.”

Prosecutors claim Guyger was distracted and inattentive when she erroneously parked on the fourth floor of the South Side apartments parking garage on Sept. 7, 2018. She mistook Jean’s apartment for her apartment on the third floor and entered the ajar door before firing twice into the dark at what she believed was an intruder, striking Jean in the chest. Guyger was off-duty, but still in her uniform as she was returning home from a 15-hour shift.

Fine reassured jurors that convicting Guyger “does not mean you hate police” and it has nothing to do with politics.

“This has to do with the defendant making unreasonable decisions that put her in that seat and Bo in the ground,” Fine said.

Fine accused Guyger of lying on the witness stand. He said she first testified she shot Jean when he was 13 feet away from her inside the apartment but then said on redirect examination that he was farther back in the apartment by the back door.

“You know how Bo was not by the door? There was a baseball bat there,” Fine said. “That baseball bat was not touched. A normal person would grab that baseball bat with someone busting in their home.”

Fine reminded jurors of the testimony of Texas Ranger and lead investigator David Armstrong on Saturday that the white boxer shorts Jean was wearing had no pockets.

“She says she’s looking for his hands, but he has no pockets,” Fine said. “His hands were pushing him off the couch. You guys know that’s the truth, you know it.”

Prosecutors have accused Guyger of being distracted by sexually explicit text messages she exchanged that night with her married police partner. Guyger admitted on the witness stand last week that the two had an affair, but denied there were plans to meet that night.

“Look down, there is a big red mat,” Fine said of indicators that Guyger was at the wrong apartment. “Let’s open up the apartment and get hit with a cloud of marijuana. Her eyes are not working, her sense of hearing is not working. This is crazy. This is a trained professional. Think for one second, use your brain.”

The defense has argued the sexting is a non-issue and Guyger simply did not notice the large red mat at Jean’s door because she was carrying her armored vest, lunch box and backpack in her arms.

Fine reminded jurors that the key element to prove in convicting Guyger of murder is that she intended to kill Jean, a standard that is far higher than the recklessness needed to convict on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

“She told you she intended to kill. That’s murder,” Fine said.

Defense attorney Toby Shook’s closing statement was less emotional than the prosecution’s. He warned jurors that prosecutors wanted them to be upset and riled up. He described the shooting as a “horrible perfect storm that came together.”

“Who would not have sympathy for Botham Jean?” Shook asked. “A wonderful human being who died under these tragic circumstances. But that is not part of your consideration as a jury.”

Shook said prosecutors failed to “get over the burden of proof” so they are redirecting the jury’s anger.

“I want you to follow the law,” Shook said. “If we have juries who follow their emotions, bad things happen.”

Shook told jurors to ignore prosecution evidence outside of the actual shooting itself, arguing the allegations that Guyger did not perform CPR or call for back and texted on her phone while first responders tried to save Jean are meant to purely anger them.

“You can hate her for sending that text, but you cannot convict her because that has nothing to do with her decision to shoot,” the attorney said.

Shook also criticized the emphasis of prosecution witnesses on what proper police procedure would be in responding to a burglary, stating Guyger was not responding to a call but rather returning home from work.

Shook reiterated that Guyger committed a reasonable “mistake of fact” in entering the wrong apartment due to poor signage and confusing floor plans, and defended herself against what she thought was an intruder in her home with deadly force.

“Ninety-three people in that building said they had been on the wrong floor before, 46% of people on the third and fourth floor said they parked on the wrong floor. Are they unreasonable?” Shook asked. “This is from the prosecution’s own investigator witnesses, they found it.”

Outside the presence of the jury before closing arguments, Dallas County District Judge Tammy Kemp ruled to include the “castle doctrine” in the instructions she later read aloud to the jury. It means the jury can consider if Guyger was justified in using deadly force to defend herself against what she believed was an intruder in her home.

Kemp overruled a prosecution request to not include the “mistake of fact” defense in the instructions. The judge also decided to only give the jury the option to convict on murder, manslaughter or to acquit – leaving out an option to convict on a lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide.

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