The jury will now resume deliberations to determine Guyger’s punishment.
This story is being continuously updated.
A Dallas County jury on Tuesday convicted fired police officer Amber Guyger of murder for fatally shooting Botham Jean in his apartment last year.
Cheers broke out in the hallway outside the courtroom after the verdict was announced shortly after 10:30 a.m.
Testimony in the punishment phase of Guyger’s trial will proceed this afternoon, with another round of jury deliberations to come after that. In Texas, murder carries a sentence of five to 99 years or life in prison. The charge is not eligible for probation.
Guyger, 31, fatally shot 26-year-old Jean in his apartment last year. She had said she mistook his apartment for her own and thought Jean was a burglar. She is the first Dallas officer convicted of murder since the 1970s.
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Jurors began deliberating Monday afternoon after the prosecution and Guyger’s defense presented closing arguments. They delivered their verdict after about five hours of deliberations.
After hearing the verdict, Guyger stood still until the jury left. Then, she sank into her chair.
As state District Judge Tammy Kemp read the verdict, Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, leaned her head back. Her daughter, Allisa Findley, slumped in her seat, put her face in her hands and wept.
Midway into the verdict, a woman in a red dress in the gallery cheered and clapped her hands. A bailiff immediately yelled “no” and she was quiet.
Once the judge was done and called a recess, Allison Jean’s face crumpled as she stood and put both hands in the air. Walking out of the courtroom, she said, “God is good. Trust him.”
Lee Merritt, an attorney representing the Jeans, said the family would testify during the punishment phase of the trial.
Jean’s grandmother raised her right fist in the air as she left the courtroom.
More than two dozen bailiffs lined the courtroom and the hallway outside. Patches on some of their uniforms indicated they were with the tactical unit, though they had no extra gear.
At one point, one bailiff asked another whether they had enough people to handle the crowd. “No,” another responded.
The crowd in the hallway after the verdict was boisterous but not unruly. When prosecutors walked out, people gave them a round of raucous applause and cheers.
In the hallway, Guyger’s mother was shaking.
Guyger left the courtroom about 15 minutes after the verdict. She’ll be back when the sentencing phase of her trial begins about 1 p.m.
After the verdict, Ben Crump, an attorney for the Jean family, said 26-year-old Jean was a “near perfect” person.
“This jury had to make history in America today, because Botham was the best that we had to offer,” Crump said. “Twenty-six year old, college-educated black man, certified public accountant, working for one of the big three accounting firms in the world, PricewaterhouseCoopers.”
“But it shouldn’t take all of that for unarmed black and brown people in America to get justice,” Crump said.
Crump said the verdict wasn’t just for Jean and his family.
“This verdict is for Trayvon Martin,” he said, “it’s for Michael Brown, it’s for Sandra Bland, it’s for Tamir Rice, it’s for Eric Garner, it’s for Antwon Rose, it’s for Jemel Roberson, for EJ Bradford, for Stephon Clark, for Jeffrey Dennis, Genevieve Dawes, for Pamela Turner.”
“O’Shae Terry,” interjected Merritt, who also represents the Jeans.
“For so many black and brown unarmed human beings all across America,” Crump continued, holding Allison Jean’s hand in the air, “this verdict today is for them. Everybody can raise their hands — this verdict is for them. This verdict is for them.”
Outside, on the steps of the courthouse, activists began celebrating shortly after the verdict was read.
Safiya Paul, a St. Lucian immigrant like Jean, was wrapped in the blue, yellow and black flag of the Caribbean nation.
Paul and another activist, Tamara Neil, were in the courtroom when the verdict was read. Neil said the hallway after was “full of joyous energy.”
“This is how you celebrate a black life,” Neil said. “Can you imagine how big Botham is smiling right now? Like, his life really mattered. … At last we can stand in the same room as justice.”
“God, it feels good,” Neil said. “If he was here what do you think Botham would be saying right now?”
“He would be singing,” Paul said.
Before the verdict, as their deliberations entered a second day, jurors were given the option to consider the “castle doctrine,” known as Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” law. The law was clearly on their minds first thing Tuesday morning.
An attorney for the Jean family, Daryl K. Washington, told reporters that the jury sent two notes to state District Judge Tammy Kemp, asking for clarification on the charge of manslaughter — they had a choice of murder, manslaughter or outright acquittal — and for more information about the castle doctrine.
“If Amber Guyger is allowed to use that defense … what would’ve happened if Botham would’ve shot her for coming into his home?” Washington said, citing the jury’s question. “Would he have been able to use the castle doctrine?”
Testimony stretched across six days after the trial began Sept. 23. Jurors had heard from officers who responded first to the scene the night of the shooting and watched how they frantically tried to save Jean’s life.
They also heard from people who lived at the apartment complex where Guyger and Jean lived, as well as testimony from a medical examiner, a crime scene analyst and the Texas Rangers’ lead investigator for the shooting.
Guyger’s defense team had urged the jury to think “coolly and calmly” about the case, which they cast as a tragic mistake. They have said Guyger made a “series of horrible mistakes” that led to her shooting Jean out of fear for her life.
But the prosecution said arguments of self-defense don’t apply to Guyger because Jean was not a threat. They said Guyger had other options besides killing Jean and that she acted unreasonably by failing to notice she wasn’t at her apartment.
Source: Dallas News