Texas Legislature

'This Is About Right and Wrong': State Lawmakers Push the Botham Jean Act

State lawmakers hope to pass "Bo's Law" in honor of Botham Jean.
State lawmakers hope to pass "Bo's Law" in honor of Botham Jean. Nicholas Bostick
This week, state lawmakers are working to ensure the tragedy that befell Botham Jean never happens again.

The Botham Jean Act would honor the 26-year-old accountant who was killed in his home by a former Dallas police officer in September 2018. DeSoto state Rep. Carl O. Sherman Sr. is pushing the bill through the House, with Dallas state Sen. Royce West following suit in the Senate.

The companion bills aim to clarify ambiguities that allowed Jean’s killer to feasibly argue self-defense.

Jean was eating ice cream in his apartment when then-officer Amber Guyger, who lived in the apartment directly below, walked through his unlocked front door. Guyger shot and killed Jean, whom she later claimed she mistook for a burglar in her home.

In a press conference at the state Capitol on Monday, Sherman said “Bo’s Law” would help make sure Texans are safe in their own homes.

“This is something that should concern all of us,” he said. “We are one. This is not about Black, white: This is about right and wrong.”

West said the act would help safeguard Texans from meeting the same fate as Jean.

“No Texan, regardless of the color of their skin, regardless of their religion, should find that acceptable,” he said of Jean’s case. “What we should find acceptable is coming to a resolution to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Bo’s Law is exactly that.”

Bo’s Law is a bipartisan effort with Fort Worth state Rep. Matt Krause and Sugar Land state Rep. Jacey Jetton serving as Republican joint authors in the House.

If passed, the bill would clear up ambiguities surrounding “mistake of fact” and body-worn camera policies. Bodycams would remain on throughout entire investigations, and anyone who deactivated a recording would be subject to penalty.

During Guyger's trial, testimony revealed Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata requested another officer turn off a squad car camera so he and Guyger could speak privately, according to NBC-DFW. Mata claimed Guyger was going to receive a call from her attorney, invoking attorney-client privilege.

The bill would also close a loophole in the "castle doctrine," which allows someone to use deadly force when an intruder enters their home. Since Guyger claimed she thought she was in her own apartment when she shot Jean, her lawyers used the castle doctrine to help argue her case.

"You can’t have repentance if you don’t acknowledge what you have done.” – State Rep. Carl O. Sherman Sr.

tweet this

Every Texan has the right to defend their homes by any means necessary if someone breaches their property, Sherman told the Observer.

“But I do not believe someone has the right to break into my home and claim that they thought they were in their home and then kill me and my family,” he said. “That’s absurd.”

At Monday’s press conference, Allison Jean said her family’s lives have been “turned upside down” since the night of her son Botham’s death. These days, they frequently feel helpless and hopeless.

Although Guyger was convicted of murder, she’s appealing the verdict, a fact Allison Jean calls an “injustice.” She also decried the way her family has been treated by city officials.

“To this day we have not received a call to sit at a table with the city of Dallas,” Allison Jean said. “Something has to be wrong [with that]. It makes me feel like my son died like a dog.”

The Texas Legislative Black Caucus plans to send a notification to the city asking officials to reach out to the family, Sherman said.

Meanwhile, a portion of Lamar Street was officially changed to Botham Jean Boulevard on Saturday. Sherman told the Observer the renaming is significant because it signals a broader societal shift toward social justice.

The street was originally named after the second president of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, who was a fervent supporter of slavery and the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. Sherman said street names should be given to those deserving of high honor, and renaming the street is a necessary step in “burying the Confederate spirit” that Lamar embodied.

Jean lived on Lamar Street, and Dallas Police Department is also headquartered there. Now, any time officers hand out business cards or send letters, the stationery’s address will serve as a reminder of Jean, Sherman said.

“We talk a lot in our Judeo-Christian society about repentance,” he said. “Well, you can’t have repentance if you don’t acknowledge what you have done.”

House Bill 929, so numbered to reflect Jean’s Sept. 29 birthday, will be heard by the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee on Thursday.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter