Amber Guyger Gets 10 Years For The Murder Of Botham Jean, And The Justice Feels Hollow

Let me start by stating an actual fact of the Botham Jean murder:  No one will ever know exactly what transpired between Amber Guyger and Botham “Bo” Jean other than those two participants. That is just the simple fact of life.

However, based upon a criminal investigation, we can draw a fairly reasonable timeline of events, and what did transpire, based on forensics, 911 calls, surveillance video, and ideally from the testimony of involved parties, but in this case particularly, the only testimony we have is of the killer, and outside of her 911 call, which the prosecution presumed to be her most honest moments following the event, her testimony, like the testimony of anyone who doesn’t want to go to jail for life, is going to show her in the best light, and may, or may not, contain sentiments that aren’t true.

That’s life.

The reality of being a black man in America, is that I truly did not expect a guilty verdict to come down in the Amber Guyger case.  I will admit that I did not follow the case extremely closely.  I made that mistake in the Jason Van Dyke case.  I followed all the testimony, listen to a podcast about the case, watched the reading of the verdict live, cried, and then the judicial system, after passing a guilty verdict, spit on my back by giving the murderer less time than many are sitting in prison now for non-violent offenses.

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, I’m an asshole.

And when the guilty verdict came, there was a tinge of pleasure in seeing justice served, but it passed quickly, as I posted on Facebook,

“Yes! Now let’s hope she doesn’t get 3 months in jail and another police job.

Now Guyger could’ve gotten life in prison.  The prosecution asked for no less than 28 years, which was a symbolic number, as Botham Jean would have turned 28 this week.

And after 2 hours of deliberation, the jury came back with a sentence of 10 years.

When I received the push notification to my phone, I actually sighed, and shrugged.  10 years is actually more than I was expecting her to get, and quite probably way less than I felt she deserved.

This case has reignited, because it does die down after a few weeks, the fire of conversation on police misuse of force, and racial bias, not only of the police, but in America as a whole.

  1. This case displays the belief of black males as supermen

This can be coupled with the fact that research has shown that black boys are often viewed as older and less innocent than their white counterparts, and police are likelier to use force against black children and to “dehumanize” blacks in general. (Source: American Psychological Association)

This was exemplified in the Tamir Rice case, in which the police officers stated that they thought the 12-year-old boy was at least 18.

Amber Guyger had a gun. At best, Botham had a bowl of ice cream and spoon in his hand, at worst, completely empty handed and defenseless.  What exactly did she think he was going to do to her?

But time and time again, society has told me, as a black man, that I have super powers.  I can cover great distances in a single bound.  Even running away from a police officer I am a threat.  Perhaps I have the same powers as the comic book character Venom, and didn’t even know it?

Hell, an unarmed black man can take on 5 or 6 officers at one time, ala Rodney King.  “We’ve hit him 20 times, and he’s down on the ground, but damnit, he’s still a threat.”

The reality is that I, simply because of the color of my skin, pose an unreasonable threat to everyone and everything near me, which is why women clutch their purses, and police will ask me to get up against the wall and spread them simply because I surely have a deadly weapon to go along with my deadly persona.

And please, let me clearly state my privilege right here.  I grew up with a parent who told me time and time again, that if I wasn’t better than my white counterparts, I would face a life of tension and turmoil.  My father always told me I didn’t have the privilege of standing on the corner, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time (keep in mind that this advice was also being given to his adolescent son during the heyday of the Jon Burge torture program, when standing on the corner in a black neighborhood could literally be lethal).  And I lived in a way that I shouldn’t have had to, to simply get by.  I’ve been fortunate to actually have never been stopped and frisked.  In my life, I was stopped, once, unreasonably, in Crestwood, IL, and I have been pulled over more times than I can count on bullshit.  But other than that, I’ve been fairly lucky, and yes, those stops did include some steppin’ and fetchin’, because reality is that is how you keep from getting shot in a car stop in America. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Justice for Botham Jean would likely not have come if he was not what I like to call a quote/unquote “Super Negro”. 

Example:

“The only reason Barack Obama was elected President of the United States is because he’s a super negro. One ticket for jaywalking would’ve brought that train to a screeching halt.”

HuffPost Black Voices has covered this point more eloquently, and in more depth than I could hope to at this juncture, so please slide by and read their article.

3. It stands to question whether the case would have gone down the same way if the assailant had been a white male. 

I’ve heard this point brought up several times, and it’s definitely a point that has to be taken into consideration.  She was a white female cop.  Was she in the “boys club?” Or, was she simply thrown to the wolves? Hmm….

4. What kind of f’ing cop was Guyger?

Guyger was a 5 year member of the police force, and a 1+ year member of the Crime Reduction Team (CRT), which reportedly was a coveted spot.  However, she walks into, presumably what she believes is her apartment, sees an unarmed black male, and is fearing for her life?  WTF?  Does she also jump when you yell boo at her?

I have never been a police officer. It’s a tough fucking job.  I have no doubts about that.  I also don’t think it’s a job for everyone.  Guyger showed no signs of attempting to de-escalate the situation, or take Botham into custody. She took a full on “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to the situation, which is completely unprofessional for a police officer.

And yes, she was off duty.  However, she did exactly what she was trained to do in the course of shooting someone.  She got Botham in the chest, shredding his heart and lung in the process.

However, her approach to the situation was actually completely counter to what is the force instructions of the Dallas Police Department in this kind of situation:

“If you come across a person that is inside a habitation, like a burglar, if you have the opportunity to do so, you are to take a position of cover and concealment and contain that individual and call for backup.  That maximizes the safety of both the officer, and yes, even the assailant.” ~Prosecutor in the Amber Guyger trial

But that’s not what Amber did.  She shot him fast.  We know that based on the fact that, she still has not perceived that she is in fact, in an environment that is decorated differently than her own, and based on where Bo was shot, he was either rising from a seated position, or cowering down, which resulted in the bullet hitting him in a downward trajectory.  He wasn’t towering over her.  He wasn’t charging at her.  He likely saw the gun.

Amber missed a slew of sensory clues.  The home smelt of marijuana.  The home was messier than Amber’s apartment.  A key piece of furniture in Amber’s apartment, a huge table,  that should have been in her line of sight from the doorway, was missing. Bo was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts.

The jury decided that the use of deadly force wasn’t justified. Which left us with the question, how many years are “justice for this life that was taken?”

The answer: 10 years.  Which means, that Amber could do as little as 5 years in jail.

I’ve come to not expect much from the American judicial system. She shot a man who was sitting on his own couch, eating ice cream, whom, according to analysis, was either rising from the couch, or cowering in fear when she put two pieces of lead in him.

She walked over a red doormat, which her apartment did not have, walked into an apartment that would have been furnished differently from hers, while coincidentally sexting her work partner whom she presumably planned on seeing later that night, and then plugged a black man, while in her police uniform, because she was “scared” for her life, and seemingly gave little opportunity for him to react in any reasonable fashion to what amounts to a home invasion.

Then, she gave him little to no CPR, because she was “frantic” and had to use one of her 2 hands to call 911.

She could’ve gotten life. As I mentioned before, I was calling 4 years or less. She got 10. I’ll assume she can cut that in half with good behavior, and she’s pretty, so maybe she can squeeze an analyst job with Fox News out of the debacle if she chose.

Justice?

Now, allow me to put all of this in the scope of one important fact:

5. The American justice system is fucked up and broken.  I really hate to see anyone, for any reason, go in it.

The day someone decided that it could be greatly profitable to lock people in prison and keep them there, we were fucked. The reality is that Amber Guyger will spend 5 years in a box.  I don’t know specifically what Texas Prisons are like, but I’ve listened to enough first hand accounts of prison and prison life to know that positivity is scant.  Our system as it stands now, doesn’t do anything to help those who go inside to change their lives around, or to become contributing members of society.  We set them up to waste away, lose their minds and humanity in many cases, and to become revolving cogs in the prison industrial complex.

What we need is a rebuilt judicial system, built on some form of restorative practices.  I truly think this is what Botham Jean’s brother meant when he said that he didn’t hate Guyger, and didn’t want to see her go to prison.  It creates nothing, it does nothing, and when she comes out, she will likely be bitter, with no great insight into what she can do to make the world a better place post her crime and conviction.

And that goes for the hundreds of thousands of people who are in prisons across the country.  We throw them in the system, grind them up, and it spits them out, often for them to quickly return, because they  have nothing, have learned nothing, and often are bitter and cold, having spent years of their life in cold brutal places.

That’s fucked up.

We need to put people in a position to repair the harm their crime has caused, as well as to go through rehabilitation, and counseling, and therapy, often to repair years of trauma, and to learn skills that will benefit them in the outside world.  That program would actually be way cheaper, in the long run, than anything we’re doing right now.  Right it down.

Also, you can’t help but feel sympathy for Amber Guyger when you listen to her testimony. She doesn’t look like a monster.  She doesn’t sound like a monster.

She isn’t a monster.

She’s a person.  Who made a bad decision.  The thought process behind that decision is what truly is in question, and in some people’s eyes, whether it was, as she portrays, an honest mistake, or a pre-trained reaction to a particular stimuli.

In either case, her life has been ruined, as is her family’s, and the lives of the family of Botham Jean, and friends, and the community, and as reported, the entire city of Dallas has been shifted by this case.

In closing, I am going to quote an acquaintance from Facebook:

“What in the entire F? If the victim was the white female & the shooter was the black male, y’all know he would have gotten 20+ yrs.”

Indeed.

Oh….I absolutely couldn’t resist…but ABC News recently reported that a man who shot and killed a police dog was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Welcome to post-racial America.  The water is fine.

What are your thoughts on the Amber Guyger murder trial? Was justice served? Did you agree with the sentence?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.  I’m also sharing 3 videos from the trial that I found especially interesting, but there are many others on Youtube.  Feel free to dig in.  


Prosecution opening statements of the Amber Guyger murder trial


Amber Guyger full testimony


Brandt Jean impact statement

Also, I’m now a podcast host.  The show is Off The Beaten Podcast. You can find this week’s show on Apple Podcast, on Stitcher, or on our website. Also, follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter to see the sights of the city and what’s going down.

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3 comments

  1. I don’t think you’ll find many who disagree that the sentence did not fit the crime. I think there is something to be said though that prosecutors have charged and juries have found guilty cops like Guyger and Van Dyke. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.

    As for the Castle Defense, I read somewhere (Shaun King page) that one the Judge didn’t have a choice and if she didn’t allow it, Amber Guyger would have grounds for a re-trial because not every avenue of defense was available for her.

    Perhaps by allowing it, and her still being found guilty, this might set a precedent for future Stand your Ground defenses and curb the license to kill aspect of that law.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make an excellent point. I imagine what would most disturb Dallas residents is that the Castle Defense was in any way, shape or form applicable in this case. But I’m glad the jury didn’t “fall for it” because that surely would have been a dangerous precedent.

      Like

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