It’s time to revisit Joshua Brown‘s testimony, and the role he played in prosecutors getting former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger convicted in the murder of Botham Shem Jean. His reported death grabbed national attention this weekend. He testified to overhearing Guyger shoot and kill their neighbor Jean, so it was striking to learn he was slain in another homicide so shortly after the defendant was convicted on Tuesday and sentenced on Wednesday.
The Dallas Police Department tell Law&Crime on Sunday morning that the victim in a Friday incident at the ATERA apartments has yet to be positively identified, but Lee Merritt, an attorney for Jean’s family, confirmed Brown’s death through social media. It’s not hard to find distrust of the local police online, or even to come across outright suspicion that he was killed over his role in the trial. There’s no publicly available concrete details showing who killed Brown or why, however. Cops said there’s no available information about the suspect or suspects besides witnesses saying they heard several gunshots, and saw a silver four-door sedan leaving the parking lot very fast.
1. He Lived Across the Hall from Jean
Guyger stood trial in Jean’s Sept. 6, 2018 shooting death. There’s no dispute she shot and killed him. The question was whether this was a reasonable mistake under Texas law. The defendant lived on the third floor of the South Side Flats apartment complex. Her defense said she accidentally parked on the fourth floor after a long day at work, and came to Jean’s apartment thinking it was hers. She said she believed he was an intruder in her residence, so she pulled out her gun, and shot him, fearing for her life, the defense said. The prosecutors said her errors were unreasonable, however. Jurors sided with the state, and sentenced in Guyger to 10 years in prison although prosecutors requested 28. One member of the jury told ABC that the defendant showed remorse, and another said he thought that Jean wouldn’t have wanted vengeance.
Prosecutors relied in part on Brown’s testimony to win a conviction. He lived across the hall from Jean on the fourth floor, he testified. Brown said he didn’t meet the victim until the day of the shooting. People from the leasing office came to their doors regarding a noise complaint that afternoon at about 2 p.m., he said.
These newly acquainted neighbors spoke to each other for a time after talking to the leasing people. According to Brown, they said that perhaps the leasing people came because of the scent of marijuana. He and Jean had both used it. (Prosecutors used the victim’s use of marijuana to show that his apartment smelled like it, and that this should’ve been a sign to Guyger that she was in the wrong place.)
Brown had lived at South Side Flats for a few months, and didn’t know Jean until near the very end, but he was pretty much always aware of his neighbor. He said while locking his door behind him every morning, he’d hear Jean signing gospel music or Drake.
2. He Testified to Hearing Guyger Shoot Jean.
Brown briefly left his home that day to watch the Atlanta Falcons play the Philadelphia Eagles at a Bombshells restaurant. A cousin played on the Falcons, and he had a friend on the Eagles, he said.
The witness testified he took a Lyft there and back because he knew he’d be drinking. He ended up leaving at half-time, he said. Upon his return to South Side Flats, he heard sounds when he reached a corner where two hallways met. It sounded like two people meeting by surprise. He couldn’t make out what they said, but could tell these were two separate voices, he said. Brown testified to hearing the gunshot pops right after the words.
3. Early Confusion. Aftermath.
Brown testified that he entered his personal apartment to see if anyone was inside, to check on his dog, and determine if everything there looked right.
He said he was in his home for two to three minutes before hearing the defendant in the hallway. He looked out his door through the peephole, and saw her going back and forth on the phone. She came back inside Jean’s apartment, then came back out, he said.
Brown testified to having never met Guyger.
During the relatively brief cross-examination, the defense had him reiterate that he couldn’t make out what the people said in the incident. He only heard the two gunshots, he said. Guyger’s lawyer also cast doubt on whether Brown could determine the precise timeline of events.
“Obviously, you didn’t have a timer,” defense lawyer Robert Rogers said.
4. Personal Background, and Emotional Testimony
Brown cut an amicable figure in court, wearing a Dragonball Z t-shirt (a detail appreciated by a fair number). He discussed how he moved to Texas in 2008. He graduated high school, went to college in south Florida for four years. On graduation, he continued trying to play football, but that dream didn’t shake out, and ended up being a roofing contractor for a few years, he said. At trial, he testified that he managed two Airbnbs in Los Angeles, and one in Atlanta. He was working on getting a fourth one. During direct examination, the witness acknowledged previous troubles with the law. There was a misdemeanor theft conviction in 2011, and possession of a controlled substance in 2016.
He was soft-spoken throughout the testimony, and was told a couple of times to speak up. At one point, the judge called a break when Brown began weeping in court, wiping his eyes with his shirt.
“Yeah, we need a moment,” he said.
5. Brown Said He Also Mistakenly Went to the Wrong Floor
Brown’s testimony spoke to a divisive element of the trial. How reasonable and normal was it for Guyger to mistakenly go to the wrong apartment on the wrong floor? The defense said in closing arguments that 93 people have said they’d gone to the wrong floor, and that 46 percent of people on the third and fourth had reported parking on the wrong floor.
The prosecution, however, said that other people were able to use context clues to figure out their mistakes. Guyger’s mistakes were unreasonable in this context.
Brown testified to two occasions in which he accidentally went to the third floor. In one incident, he even put his key in the door of 1337 briefly thinking it was his home upstars at 1437. In another incident, he realized his mistake when he saw a big vase, which signaled to him that he was on the third floor.
[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]
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