Amber Guyger appeal: Ex Dallas police officer who shot black neighbor, Botham Jean dead loses bid to have murder conviction quashed to that of a lesser charge.
A Texas appeals court on Thursday upheld the murder conviction of a former Dallas police officer who was sentenced to prison for fatally shooting her ‘black’ neighbor in his home.
A panel of three state judges ruled that a Dallas County jury had sufficient evidence to convict Amber Guyger, 33, of murder in the 2018 shooting of Botham Jean.
Guyger was arrested on a manslaughter charge, but was convicted of murder in Oct. 2019 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Her appeal requested a lesser charge and a new hearing for her punishment.
The decision by the 5th Texas Court of Appeals in Dallas means Guyger, will continue to serve her 10-year prison sentence and largely eliminated any hope of having the 2019 conviction overturned. The former Dallas police officer will become eligible for parole in 2024, under her current sentence.
The ruling comes in a case that drew national attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of Black men by white police officers.
Jurors had to determine whether Guyger reasonably thought she was inside her own apartment at the time of the shooting and whether a reasonable person in her position would have shot Jean in self-defense, as she alleges.
The jury found her guilty of murder.
Guyger in her appeal, argued that the evidence is legally insufficient to show she committed murder, according to court documents. The court ruled that evidence supported the guilty verdict of murder. Guyger admitted during her testimony that she intended to kill Jean.
The appeals court justices did not dispute the basic facts of the case. Guyger, returning home from a long shift, mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was on the floor directly below his. Finding the door ajar, she entered and shot him, later testifying that she thought he was a burglar.
Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, had been eating a bowl of ice cream before Guyger shot him. She was later fired from the Dallas Police Department.
Guyger’s appeal hung on the claim that her mistaking Jean’s apartment for her own was reasonable, and therefore, so too was the shooting. Her lawyer asked the appeals court to acquit her of murder or substitute in a conviction for criminally negligent homicide, which carries a lesser sentence.
Dallas County prosecutors countered that the error was not reasonable, that Guyger acknowledged intending to kill Jean and that ‘murder is a result-oriented offense.’
The court’s chief justice, Robert D. Burns III, and Justices Lana Myers and Robbie Partida-Kipness concurred with prosecutors, disagreeing that Guyger’s belief that deadly force was needed was reasonable.
In a 23-page opinion, the justices also disagreed that evidence supported a conviction of criminally negligent homicide rather than murder, and they pointed to Guyger’s own testimony that she intended to kill.
‘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.’
Defense attorneys could still ask the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — the state’s highest forum for criminal cases — to review the appeals court’s ruling.