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Court Rejects Appeal, Upholds Amber Guyger’s Murder Conviction For Killing Botham Jean

Dallas, TX – The 5th Texas Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the murder conviction of former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger in the shooting death of her neighbor 27-year-old Botham Jean.

A panel of three state judges wrote in a 23-page opinion that Guyger’s own testimony that she intended to kill Jean when she shot him supported her murder conviction rather than criminally-negligent homicide, the Associated Press reported.

“That she was mistaken as to Jean’s status as a resident in his own apartment or a burglar in hers does not change her mental state from intentional or knowing to criminally negligent,” the judges wrote. “We decline to rely on Guyger’s misperception of the circumstances leading to her mistaken beliefs as a basis to reform the jury’s verdict in light of the direct evidence of her intent to kill.”

Attorneys for former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger filed an appeal in August of 2020 seeking to have her murder conviction reduced and her 10-year prison sentence reconsidered.

A Texas jury found Guyger guilty in September of 2019 of the murder of Jean, after she mistook his apartment for her own and shot him believing he was a burglar.

The jury sentenced Guyger to 10 out of a possible 99 years in prison and elected not to give her any fine.

Under the Court of Appeals ruling, the now 33-year-old Guyger will continue to serve her prison sentence and be eligible for parole in 2024, the Associated Press reported.

Attorneys for the former police officer had filed an appeal that said there was insufficient evidence to prove Guyger had committed murder when she killed Jean, KXAS reported.

The appeal asked that Guyger’s conviction be overturned and that she be found guilty of criminally-negligent homicide instead.

“The evidence was legally insufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Guyger committed murder because (1) through mistake, Guyger formed a reasonable belief about a matter of fact — that she entered her apartment and there was an intruder inside — and (2) her mistaken belief negated the culpability of murder because although she intentionally and knowingly caused Jean’s death, she had the right to act in deadly force in self defense since her belief that deadly force was immediately necessary was reasonable under the circumstances,” defense attorneys wrote in a brief, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Texas law “requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally or knowingly caused the death of the complainant,” KXAS reported.

Guyger’s attorneys said she fatally shot Botham intentionally but she did so only out of belief her life was in danger.

Defense lawyers argued that her fear for her life entitled the former officer to use deadly force to protect herself, according to KXAS.

The shooting occurred on Sept. 6, 2018 after then-Officer Guyger worked 14 hours serving warrants in high crime areas of Dallas.

The exhausted officer parked on the wrong floor of the parking garage – the 4th instead of the 3rd – and proceeded into the building, where she went to the door of the apartment she believed to be her own and used her key.

The door wasn’t fully shut and opened right away.

The sound of the door opening alerted Jean, who was home alone in his apartment watching football, and he went to see what was going on at his front door.

Officer Guyger told investigators she saw the silhouette of someone in what she believed to be her own apartment, and drew her firearm because she thought she was being robbed.

She gave verbal commands that were ignored by Jean and then shot him twice.

The arrest affidavit said it wasn’t until Officer Guyger was already on the phone with 911 that she reached to turn on the lights and she realized she was not in her own apartment.

Guyger’s defense attorneys argued in their appeal that while she did knowingly shoot to kill, the then-police officer was acting out of a belief that her life was in danger and she was entitled to use deadly force against the apparent danger, KXAS reported.

The sentence for criminally-negligent homicide is 180 days to two years in jail and Guyger’s attorneys had asked that she be resentenced on the lesser charges.

While the appeals court did not dispute the facts of the case, Guyger’s appeal hinged on the claim that mistaking Jean’s apartment for her own was reasonable, the Associated Press reported.

Dallas County prosecutors have said the mistake was unreasonable and pointed out that Guyger acknowledged intending to kill Jean.

Prosecutors argued that “murder is a result-oriented offense,” the Associated Press reported.

The appeals court panel made up of Chief Justice Robert D. Burns III and Justices Lana Myers and Robbie Partida-Kipness agreed with prosecutors and disagreed that Guyger’s belief that deadly force was necessary was reasonable.

Defense attorneys could appeal their ruling to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, but Guyger’s attorneys have not yet said if that is the plan, the Associated Press reported.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone

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