Court proceedings began Monday in the murder trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, 31. Prosecutors went first. As expected, they laid out their case for how she should be held legally responsible for fatally shooting neighbor Botham Shem Jean, 26, in his apartment.
The state said Guyger entered the victim’s apartment on Sept. 6, 2018 after a work shift, and killed him. She said in 911 audio that she mistakenly believed that this was her home.
Prosecutor Jason Hermus told jurors that the defendant made a series of unreasonable errors leading up to the shooting. She parked on the fourth floor of her apartment, and walked up to Jean’s apartment thinking it was hers. The defendant lived below, on the third floor. He said she missed numerous signs that she was in the wrong place. This included Jean’s “extremely obvious bright red” doormat. The defendant didn’t have one of those at her apartment. Though Guyger worked overtime that day, this particular shift was not demanding, said the state. She should’ve had the presence of mind to realize her actual whereabouts.
The trajectory of the bullet that took Jean’s life showed that he was either shot when she was sitting up from the couch, or he was crouching in fear of her gun, said Hermus.
The prosecution also bought up Guyger’s alleged sexual relationship with her police partner. The state is using this to show her presence of mind (or lack thereof) during the shooting. They claim the pair was setting up an encounter to happen later.
“Wanna touch?” she wrote, according to the prosecution.
Hermus claimed that the officers communicated throughout the evening, but he can’t show jurors the pictures they sent each other because Snapchat deletes images as a matter of course, and phone messages were also deleted about a day or two after Jean’s death.
When it came to the actual shooting, Guyger never indicated in her 911 call that Jean was a danger to her. Her statements to officials and her partner shortly after the shooting showed that she was preoccupied with “damage control,” not the victim. Responding officers found her outside the apartment, not at Jean’s side.
“She left that poor man alone in his apartment in his final moments,” said Hermus.
Defense lawyer Robert Rogers dismissed the idea of an ongoing sexual relationship between his client and her police partner. He said that Guyger and her partner had been together before, but the last time was late 2017. This was 2018. The relationship had ramped down by the time of the shooting. They were good co-workers, and flirted with one another, but Guyger, then 30, was looking for something more serious. The defense insisted these officers had no plans to meet up later.
Rogers told jurors that Guyger’s mistakes were reasonable in the moment. She had had a long day at work, and was on “autopilot” trying to get home. He construed Jean’s death as an “unfortunate set of circumstances.”
According to the defense’s version of events, Guyger entered the apartment. This alarmed Jean. He started approaching her from 30 feet away. It was dark in the apartment. The defendant was going from a well-lit hallway into a dark residence. She was not looking around for furniture or landmarks, said Rogers.
Guyger had “tunnel vision” according to the defense. She believed she was in her apartment. The defendant yelled “hands,” but Jean was drowning her out by yelling “hey.” In Guyger’s mind, she was wondering why her gun wasn’t scaring off Jean, said the defense. He kept approaching. In her head, she believed that this man meant to kill her.
According to the defense version of events, Jean was confused, he was coming toward the person now in his apartment, he leaned down when he saw the gun, and he was shot. There was “zero evidence” that Jean was shot in the heart while getting up, said Rogers.
The lawyer construed this as a tragic mistake, but not a crime.
[Screengrab via Dallas Morning News]