Texas District Court Judge Tammy Kemp said she couldn’t turn down a requested hug with murder defendant and former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger.
“Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug,” Kemp told The Associated Press in a Monday report. “I would not.”
Guyger was convicted Tuesday and sentenced Wednesday in the murder of neighbor Botham Shem Jean, 26. Her defense said she accidentally went to his apartment thinking it was hers and that he was an intruder. This was a reasonable mistake under the law, they said. The jury convicted her, but sentenced her to 10 years in prison — well below the 28 requested by the prosecution.
Jean’s brother Brandt Jean asked after the sentence to hug the defendant. Kemp said that after this, Guyger asked her twice for a hug. The judge said she hesitated at first, but ended up doing it.
As seen on video, Kemp gave Guyger a Bible.
“I have three or four more at home,” she said. “This is the one I use every day.” She told the defendant to read John 3:16, and continue with the Bible.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a complaint regarding Kemp’s actions, saying it was improper for the judge to do this in the context of a courtroom.
Kemp denied that she did anything wrong.
“I didn’t do that from the bench,” she told the AP. “I came down to extend my condolences to the Jean family and to encourage Ms. Guyger because has a lot of life to live.” She said that she wasn’t sure if Guyger was even a Christian. Kemp said she pointed out the passage to show Guyger that God still loved the defendant despite the murder.
The case landed on a cultural fissure, fueling the ongoing national debate on how law enforcement treats people of color, especially black people like Jean. Kemp is also black. Guyger is white. There’s been criticism that the defendant–who admittedly killed an innocent man because of her own mistake–was getting mercy in a way that Jean wouldn’t have gotten had he been the killer.
They don’t get to make that choice for him. I won’t act as though 10 years is not a long prison sentence. But between this and the judge giving her a Bible and a hug, there was just so much grace extended to Guyger that Jean didn’t get—and would never have received in her place. https://t.co/fvdzIclvQp
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) October 5, 2019
[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]