DALLAS - A Dallas County grand jury indicted former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger for murder on Friday in the fatal shooting of Botham Jean.
Guyger has claimed she mistakenly entered Jean's apartment, believing it was her own and she shot what she believed was an intruder the night of Sept. 6 at the Southside Flats. Although she was arrested for manslaughter, the grand jury had the ability to keep that charge, change it to murder or not charge her at all. The grand jury heard from witnesses on Monday and Wednesday and reviewed evidence in the case and made a decision on Friday.
“I look forward to the next step, which is a conviction of murder of Amber Guyger,” said Allison Jean, mother of Botham, who added that she wants “the proper penalty that will cause her to reflect on the pain she has caused.”
"It is such a hard thing to go through,” said Betrum Jean, Botham’s father. “We miss our boy dearly. He didn't deserve that."
Dallas County DA Faith Johnson said her office spoke to over 300 witnesses, did lab testing and presented it to the grand jury this week after months of work.
“We did a full, complete presentation to the grand jury," she said.
Johnson would not give details of the secret grand jury proceedings, but says physical evidence and witness testimony convinced jurors it was a case of murder and not manslaughter.
Johnson said that there’s equal justice in Dallas County for everyone. She said most officers are good, but in this case, “We’re talking about bad cops that go out there and do things against the law.”
Johnson estimated it would be more than a year before the Guyger case heads to trial.
Jean’s family and their attorneys waited at the Frank Crowley Courts Building all week. They called anything less than a murder indictment unacceptable and were happy at the result.
"This is groundbreaking, but it’s also just a start," said Lee Merritt, Jean family attorney.
Merritt said he and the other attorneys "believe the facts are consistent with murder." The attorneys and family members didn't want a lower charge against Guyger just to improve odds in court.
Guyger's attorney, Robert Rogers, believes she should not be charged. He says he believes the grand jury was swayed by more than facts and thinks political pressure played a role in the murder indictment.
“I’m not surprised that a grand jury came out with an indictment. There's an outpouring of vindictive emotion that's been building up. There was a lot of political pressure that seemed to play a role in how the DA handled this,” Rogers said. “I don't know what happened in the grand jury, but I believe emotion was injected into this that might have led the grand jury astray from just focusing on the law and the evidence. It’s an indictment. it doesn't mean anything. This hasn’t been tried it in a fair forum yet. So when we get to a fair form in front of 12 dispassionate citizens, I believe the law and evidence will show Amber Guyer is innocent.”
Guyger’s attorneys say it was not an intentional act of murder and plan to prove it in a jury trial. They would not comment on how she took the news of the indictment.
"In fact, all of the evidence, I think, will show that Amber Guyger made a mistake and when she was in that position that she was justified in the action she took,” Rogers said.
Jean, 26, was a native of the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia and was working in Dallas for an accounting firm.
Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall says her department feels the “anguish about this difficult and tragic event.” The chief outlined some of her policy changes. She supports restructuring the citizen review board, expanding bias training for officers and taking input from employees and the community.
Chief Hall was previously criticized for waiting more than two weeks to fire Guyger.
Jean's death ignited outrage in Dallas and around the country as questions about Guyger's version of events piled up and officials didn't take her into custody for days after the shooting. Guyger was eventually fired by Dallas police.
Guyger turned herself in on Friday on the new murder charge and was released about an hour later on a $200,000 bond. She was asked to surrender her passport and is not allowed to leave Texas without the permission of a judge.