For months, Dallas has debated the fate of former Dallas Police Department officer Amber Guyger. On Sept. 6, 2018, she shot and killed 26-year-old Botham Jean, believing, she said, that Jean was an intruder in her apartment. Instead, Guyger had entered Jean's apartment, which sat directly above hers.
As of Monday afternoon, her guilt or innocence rests on the opinions of just 12 Dallas County residents, after Dallas County district attorneys and Guyger's defense team made closing arguments in her murder trial.
"I never want anybody to ever have to go through or even imagine what I had to go through that night," prosecutor Jason Fine said, repeating Guyger's testimony from last week. "That is garbage. Most of what she said is garbage."
Fine and the lead prosecutor on the case, Jason Hermus, repeatedly used Guyger's own words to challenge her defense that the mistakes she'd made in the run-up to shooting Jean would've been made by a reasonable person. Before she even fully opened the door to Jean's apartment, prosecutors argued, she'd made the decision to confront, and likely shoot, whomever was inside.
"She made that decision outside the door that she was going to go in commando style and execute (whomever she encountered)," Fine said.
Guyger's decision to go inside the apartment, rather than calling for backup or retreating from the decision, resulted in Jean's death, Hermus said.
"For Amber Guyger, Mr. Jean was dead before that door ever opened," Hermus said. "That's just the simple truth."
Burglars, Fine said, don't make themselves a bowl of ice cream and settle down to watch TV, as Jean had done in the moments before the shooting. He wasn't making furtive movements in the rear of the apartment, as Guyger said, before the shooting. Instead, Fine said, he was sitting on the couch.
"He wasn't at the back door. There was no reason for him to be at the back door. He was sitting there eating his ice cream ... That makes sense. That's reasonable," Fine said.
Guyger didn't give Jean a chance, Fine said.
"Before he can even get up, he is shot dead in his own home, by her," Fine said. "This (case) has to do with that defendant making unreasonable decisions that put her in that seat and Bo in the ground."
Just because someone believes something — as Guyger presumably did — doesn't make that belief reasonable, Fine said.
"You can believe all kinds of crazy stuff. I could believe I'm in Florida right now, doesn't mean I'm reasonable," Fine said. "It's not what the defendant thinks (that determines what's reasonable and what isn't). Every defendant thinks they're justified."
Guyger's defense team — Toby Shook and Robert Rogers — accused prosecutors of trying to get the jury to hate Guyger so they would ignore the law.
"You can't say, 'I feel so horrible I'm going to make something happen,'" Shook admonished the panel of eight women and four men. "(The prosecution) wants you charged up ... If we have jurors making decisions based on emotion, bad things can happen."
Shook said his client was acting as someone defending her home, rather than a police officer, when she decided to go inside Jean's apartment, rather than calling for backup from the nearby Jack Evans Police Headquarters, which sit less than a half mile from the apartment complex where the shooting occurred.
"Amber Guyger wasn't there to answer a police call, a burglary call," Shook said. "She was just trying to go to her own apartment."
Prosecutors never successfully challenged Guyger's "mistake of fact" defense, Rogers said, and showed that the series of mistakes that led to the shooting were unreasonable.
"Every single one of you has the power to say not guilty if the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt," Rogers said. "The evidence is clear ... that Amber Guyger firmly believed, reasonably that she was in her own apartment."
Dallas County District Judge Tammy Kemp read jurors their instructions before closing arguments. They will consider both murder and manslaughter charges.
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