Dallas County District Judge Tammy Kemp ruled late Monday afternoon that the trial of former Dallas Police Department officer Amber Guyger will remain in Dallas, denying a defense motion for a change of venue.
Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean as Jean hung out in his own apartment on Sept. 6, 2018. In a 911 call and subsequent statements to police, she insisted that the shooting was a mistake, that she'd believed Jean was an intruder in her own apartment, which sat one floor below Jean's.
In the weeks that followed, the shooting attracted mass attention from media around the world, from Texas to the rest of the United States to Jean's native Saint Lucia. Guyger's defense team cited all the media attention as proof that their client could not get a fair trial in Dallas County.
Last month, Kemp announced that she would rule on the change of venue motion after making an attempt to seat a jury. Last Friday night, 16 people — 12 jurors and four alternates — got calls from the judge herself that they'd been selected for the trial.
According to reporters in Kemp's courtroom Monday, eight of the jurors and all four alternates said they'd heard about the shooting before reporting for jury duty. Fifteen of the 16 people selected said they didn't have an opinion about the shooting. The single person who already had an opinion about Guyger's actions said that he or she could put that aside to evaluate the evidence in the case, prosecutor Doug Gladden said.
Prosecutors pointed to the fact that, of the more than 200 articles submitted to the court as proof of media saturation, about half had come out in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Many of the jurors who'd been exposed to media about the case hadn't seen anything in recent months, Gladden said.
During jury selection, Kemp warned potential jurors that they may be required to stay in a hotel and away from the media for the length of the trial, which she said could be about two weeks. Guyger's trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 23.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.