Day 1: Family of Botham Jean gathers at Cedar Crest Church
On September 6, 2018, an unarmed Botham Shem Jean (26) was murdered in his Dallas apartment by then-Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger. His grandmother, Gloria, was at Dallas’ Cedar Crest Church of Christ, with family members on Sunday, September 22, 2019. She talked about her grandson and said it was very important that he was not demonized and portrayed in a negative manner because that was not who he was. “He was a very good boy, a very loving child,” she said. “He stayed with me most of the time when school was out.” She also talked about how he loved to sing during worship services.
The murder trial of Guyger began today, September 23, in Dallas County. A jury of eight women and four men consists of five Blacks, four Hispanic, two whites and one Asian. There are four alternates. After ruling on several motions, the trial began with Judge Tammy Kemp presiding. The defendant’s attorneys were unsuccessful in keeping what they deemed as “prejudicial” text messages away from the jurors. The defendant, who could face life in prison, is expected to take the witness stand.
Day 2: Guyger trial opens with revealing information
The murder trial of Amber Guyger began September 23,
Day 3: Judge Tammy Kemp presides over Guyger trial
Tammy Kemp is the presiding Judge of the 204th Judicial District Court. There has been a transformation and many successes since she took the bench. Currently, she is presiding over the Amber Guyger Murder Trial. She could receive a life sentence if found guilty of murdering Botham Jean, after “mistakenly” entering the wrong apartment. Judge Kemp is a native of Wewoka, OK and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and a Juris Doctorate degree from OU.
After graduating law school, she worked as an Assistant Attorney General and an Assistant
Secretary of State for the State of Oklahoma, before relocating to the Dallas area. She has been practicing law since 1988 and her areas of expertise include criminal, corporate and retirement law. In her previous role of Administrative Chief of the Family Violence and Child Abuse Divisions at the Dallas County District Attorney’s (DA) Office, she supervised 28 attorneys, 21 investigators, and 18 support staff. Her duties included the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses, including death penalty capital murders. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas and the State Bar of Oklahoma and has been a member of Concord Church for more than 24 years, where she serves as a Deaconess. A member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Judge Kemp is married to a wonderful, supportive husband and they have three amazing children.
In the Judge’s words: Efﬁciency transformation. When I began my ﬁrst term on the bench, one of the ﬁrst things I did was hire and recruit some of the best and brightest court personnel at the Frank Crowley Courts Building to ensure we had a strong team to serve you — the citizens of Dallas County.! Putting a talented, experienced and knowledgeable team in place was and continues to be key to the court’s day-to-day operations and overall efﬁciency. Once our staff was in place, we did an assessment of the pending cases in the 204th as well as the manner in which the court operated under my predecessor and identiﬁed multiple deﬁciencies and opportunities for improvement.
One of the primary ways that a criminal court’s success is measured, is based on the rate in which pending cases on the court’s docket are disposed. This rate of efﬁciency has a direct correlation between a particular court and the number of men and women who are sitting in the county jail at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, awaiting court action (bond reduction hearings, pre-trial hearings, trials, sentencing, etc.). We successfully streamlined the court’s docket process, and thereby reduced the number of individuals in jail pending court action in the 204th from an average of 300 defendants per month down to approximately 100 defendants per month.
At a daily cost of $70 per day to house an individual in the county jail, this translates into cost savings to taxpayers. As a result of the enhancements we made under my administration, in my ﬁrst year on the bench, we moved the 204th Judicial District Court from the worst ranked felony court (#17 out of 17 courts) to the number one felony court in Dallas County — a distinction that we proudly maintain today.
Project Phoenix: A promise kept
When I ran for judge in 2014, one of the things I campaigned on was my vision to create a specialized program to impact low-level offenders by providing them with an opportunity to turn their lives around and be successful. After I won, I moved forward with turning that dream into a reality by partnering with the Dallas AFL-CIO to create a second chance initiative known as Project Phoenix. Designed to assist ﬁrst-time offenders become productive citizens, Project Phoenix targets adults, ages 17 to 30, and partners with the various trades of the AFL-CIO to teach eligible participants a marketable skill while earning a living wage through an apprenticeship.
Another issue impacting the criminal justice system that I am passionate about is the continual need to overhaul the county’s bail policies and procedures. As it pertains to non-violent, low-level offenders, we are working to ensure individuals are not held in jail simply due to the ﬁnancial inability to post bond. As an active member of the Bail Reform Committee, we have implemented all of the bail reforms that the law currently allows, and are constantly exploring new and innovative strategies to streamline the identiﬁcation process in an effort to uniformly determine who is actually indigent. Once these individuals are identiﬁed, they can be enrolled in pre-trial release programs in lieu of making a bond payment.
Judge Kemp says she is committed to ensuring a fair and impartial trial. She wants the jurors to decide and does not want outside interference or disruptions in the courtroom. The 12 jurors and 4 alternates have been sequestered for the duration of the trial.
Day 4: Work of first responders should not go unnoticed
Today was DAY 3 in the Amber Guyger murder trial. Back on September 6,
The Prosecution called several witnesses today. The questioning of Texas Ranger David Armstrong continued, followed by several witnesses who lived in South Side Flats on the day Jean was killed. According to Ranger Armstrong, who is a sergeant and attended Baylor University, the Rangers usually assist “smaller cities with little manpower, resources or experience.” He said Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall requested assistance and a team came in to investigate. The Defense objected to Ranger Armstrong being able to speak on the state of mind or beliefs of Guyger and jurors were not allowed to hear that testimony. If they had heard what Ranger Armstrong wanted to say, the Defense felt the testimony coming from the lead investigator would have been confusing to the jurors. Ranger Armstrong was prepared to say that he supported the theory that Guyger was approaching a burglary in progress or a suspect. The jury did not hear that Ranger Armstrong believes that Guyger was correct in perceiving Mr. Jean as a threat; that she did not commit a crime; and, she was not reckless or criminally negligent. However, there may be a possibility that the Defense, once they are presenting their case, will bring Ranger Armstrong back as an expert witness and attempt to get his testimony before the jurors.
It was an emotional day also as
Day 5: MURDER V. MANSLAUGHTER: What is Amber Guyger guilty of?
Today was DAY 4 of the Amber Guyger murder trial. On September 6, 2018, Botham Jean was at home, watching television and eating ice cream when then-Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger “mistakenly” entered his apartment and “claiming self-defense,” shot and killed Mr. Jean. Facing a murder conviction, Guyger could end up in prison for life. Some lawyers say that won’t happen. The prosecution rested their case today and as was expected, the defense asked the judge for a “directed verdict,” saying that the prosecution failed to prove “each and every element of the indictment” for murder, manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. The prosecution responded that they had proven elements and presented sufficient evidence. The judge concurred. So, on Friday morning at 8:30 am, the defense will put on its case. Judge Tammy Kemp also said that court will be in session Saturday from 9:00 am-4:00 pm. People are discussing what justice looks like and everyone has an opinion. Some are also debating whether or not the charge should be manslaughter or murder. Manslaughter is an unlawful killing that doesn’t involve malice aforethought—intent to seriously harm or kill, or extreme, reckless disregard for life. The absence of malice aforethought means that manslaughter involves less moral blame than either first or
This is often called a “heat of passion” crime. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person: is strongly provoked (under circumstances that could similarly provoke a reasonable person) and kills in the heat of passion aroused by that provocation. For “heat of passion” to exist, the person must not have had sufficient time to “cool off” from the provocation. That the killing isn’t considered first or second degree murder is a concession to human weakness. Killers who act in the heat of passion may kill intentionally, but the emotional context is a mitigating factor that reduces their moral blameworthiness. The classic example of voluntary manslaughter involves a husband who comes home unexpectedly to find his wife committing adultery. If the sight of the affair provokes the husband into such a heat of passion that he kills the paramour right then and there, a judge or jury might very well consider the killing to be voluntary manslaughter.
Involuntary manslaughter often refers to unintentional homicide from criminally negligent or reckless conduct. It can also refer to an unintentional killing through commission of a crime other than a felony. The subtleties between murder and manslaughter reach their peak with involuntary manslaughter, particularly because an accidental killing through extreme recklessness can constitute second degree murder.
The killing of a human being by a sane person, with intent, malice or forethought (prior intention to kill the particular victim or anyone who gets in the way) and with no legal excuse or authority. In those clear circumstances, this is first degree murder. By statute, many states consider a killing in which there is torture, movement of the person before the killing (kidnapping) or the death of a police officer or prison guard, or it was as an incident to another crime (as during a hold-up or rape), to be first degree murder, with or without premeditation and with malice presumed. Second degree murder is such a killing without premeditation, as in the heat of passion or in a sudden quarrel or fight. Malice in second degree murder may be implied from a death due to the reckless lack of concern for the life of others (such as firing a gun into a crowd or bashing someone with any deadly weapon). Depending on the circumstances and state laws, murder in the first or second degree may be chargeable to a person who did not actually kill, but was involved in a crime with a partner who actually did the killing or someone died as the result of the crime.
Example: In a liquor store stick-up in which the clerk shoots back at the hold-up man and kills a bystander, the armed robber can be convicted of at least second degree murder.
A charge of murder requires that the victim must die within a year of the attack. Death of an unborn child who is “quick” (fetus is moving) can be murder, provided there was premeditation, malice and no legal authority. Thus, abortion is not murder under the law. Example: Jack Violent shoots his pregnant girlfriend, killing the fetus. Manslaughter, both voluntary and involuntary, lacks the element of malice aforethought.