DALLAS (CN) – The lead investigator into fired cop Amber Guyger’s killing of an unarmed black man in his apartment that she mistook for her own testified Saturday as a defense expert witness, days after he stunned prosecutors by saying he believes she acted reasonably and committed no crime.
On day six of the closely-followed murder trial, Texas Ranger David Armstrong described to jurors how stressful scenarios cause people to experience “tunnel vision,” loss of hearing and short-term memory loss. The defense had asked him how a person would react to a “quick, evolving, tense and dynamic confrontation with a suspect.”
The testimony sought to push back against prosecution claims that, Guyger, 31, 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 the apartment of Botham Jean, 26, for her apartment on the third floor, entered the ajar door before firing 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.
On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus – former police officer himself – confirmed with Armstrong that the white boxer shorts Jean was wearing at the time had no pockets. The questioning disputes Guyger’s emotional testimony Friday that Jean was not complying with her commands to show her his hands and that she fired because he was allegedly approaching her saying, “Hey, hey, hey.”
Dallas County District Judge Tammy Kemp abruptly ended testimony before lunch, recessing the trial until Monday morning. The jury is being sequestered, resulting in the rare Saturday court date and the judge’s desire to wrap up testimony quickly.
Armstrong first testified Wednesday as a prosecution witness as to the technical details of the crime scene, telling jurors that a strike plate in Jean’s door was defective and kept the door ajar when he returned home 20 minutes before the shooting. Such a defect could possibly explain how Guyger was able to enter Jean’s apartment with the wrong keycard. Several of Jean’s neighbors have testified their doors would also not completely close and malfunction.
Prosecutors were forced to object to the testimony of their own witness when Armstrong said Wednesday out of the presence of the jury that he believed Guyger acted reasonably and responded appropriately to what she believed was a deadly threat. Judge Kemp sustained the objection, paving the way for the defense to recall him as their own expert witness.
Earlier Saturday morning, Judge Kemp sustained a prosecution objection to certain expert witness testimony by former Dallas Police Deputy Chief Craig Miller, who said outside the presence of the jury that he believed Guyger acted reasonably in the situation. Kemp explained that any determination of how reasonably Guyger acted is an issue of fact that should be left to the jury to decide.
Miller’s testimony comes one day after Guyger wept on the stand, apologizing repeatedly for killing “an innocent man who did not deserve it.”
“I’m so sorry,” she testified. “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.”
Guyger told jurors that putting her keycard into Jean’s door by itself opened the door, that she felt “pure fear” when she saw a silhouette standing at the back of the apartment by the window, opening fire out of fear for her life.
Guyger admitted on cross-examination that she shot with the intent to kill Jean. Her intent is the key element the prosecution must satisfy to secure a murder conviction, a higher bar than proving recklessness required for a lesser conviction of manslaughter.
Prosecutors accuse Guyger of being distracted by sexually charged messages she exchanged with her married police partner Martin Rivera that night and missed several obvious indicators of where she was, indicating they planned on a romantic encounter that night. Guyger admitted to having an affair with Rivera, but testified there were no plans to see Rivera that night and that he had never visited her at her new apartment.
The defense claims the sexting is a non-issue, that Guyger committed a reasonable “mistake of fact” in entering the wrong apartment, citing testimony from several South Side residents that they have also entered the wrong apartments and floors due to inadequate signage and confusing floor plans.
Guyger showed jurors Friday how she was carrying her backpack, lunch box and armored vest in her arms as she was returning home, explaining why she missed the very obvious red mat that Jean placed at his door. Guyger had no such mat in front of her door.