DALLAS — The fate of Amber Guyger is now in jurors’ hands. During closing arguments, her defense cast the shooting of Botham Jean by the fired officer as “a series of horrible mistakes.”
But prosecutors said she acted unreasonably that night by failing to notice she was at the wrong apartment. They said arguments of self-defense don’t apply here because Jean was not a threat. Guyger also had other options besides killing Jean, they said.
Guyger, 31, has said she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own the night of Sept. 6, 2018, and fatally shot 26-year-old Jean, thinking he was a burglar.
Court recessed after closing arguments, just before 1 p.m. Jurors did not immediately begin deliberations, but they are expected to begin later Monday afternoon.
They will decide whether Guyger is guilty or not guilty of either murder or manslaughter.
Prosecutor Jason Fine began the state’s closing arguments by reading something Guyger said during her testimony: “I never want anybody to have to go through or even imagine going through what I felt that night.”
“Are you kidding me?” he said, crumpling up the paper he was reading from. “That is garbage.”
He urged the jury to think from Jean’s perspective — for them to imagine coming home from a long day and sitting down with a bowl of ice cream when they’re shot by an intruder.
He said Guyger missed five key clues when she was standing at Jean’s door: the apartment sign, his red door mat, the blinking red light signaling her key wasn’t recognized, the lack of a whirring motor sound from the key and the feeling of walking from concrete onto carpet.
“I mean, my God. This is crazy,” Fine said. “It was unreasonable — she should’ve known she was in the wrong apartment.”
He said Guyger decided before she went inside Jean’s apartment that she would “execute” whatever was in there. Had Guyger retreated, Fine said, Jean would still be alive.
Amber Guyger’s parents and sister were in the courtroom for the first time Monday. When Fine told the jury that “nobody had to die” that night and that Guyger acted unreasonably, causing Jean’s death, Guyger’s mother looked down.
Fine implored the jury to “do the right thing,” telling them that they are the voice of the community.
“I believe that y’all will do the right thing, that y’all will follow your oath, that y’all will follow the law, apply it to these facts, and render the only, only true verdict, the only just verdict,” Fine said, “and that is that this defendant murdered an innocent young man in his home.”
Defense attorney Toby Shook told the jury they could not decide whether Guyger is guilty based on “emotion and sympathy.”
“That’s hard, especially in a case like this,” he said. “You’ll never see a case like this that’s so tragic. So tragic.”
He told them they had to look at the case “coolly and calmly.”
Shook pointed to prosecutors’ suggestion that Guyger didn’t do enough to save Jean, saying it was designed to get the jury angry and emotional.
He said the “hard truth” was that no amount of first-aid or proper CPR would have saved Jean.
“He couldn’t survive because of the wound he received,” Shook said. “CPR wasn’t going to help.”
Then, he pointed to two texts Guyger sent to her partner, Martin Rivera, while she was still on the phone with 911.
“You can hate her for sending that text. You can be angry with her. You can hate her, but you can’t convict her” based on emotion, Shook said.
He said Guyger “made a series of horrible mistakes” the night she killed Jean.
Robert Rogers, another of Guyger’s defense attorneys, said the prosecution failed to “do their duty” and show that Guyger wasn’t reasonable in her actions.
“We actually, even though we have no duty, we showed you how this was a reasonable mistake,” he said.
“The state, what did they bring you? Sexting and speculation,” Rogers continued. “Everything that they have done has been to try to distract you and trick you from looking at the law in this case because they know that if you apply it correctly, that Amber Guyger is not guilty.”
In his rebuttal, lead prosecutor Jason Hermus said the defense’s argument of self defense doesn’t apply in this case, and said Guyger had other options available when she thought she was at her apartment, confronted by a burglar.
Hermus pointed out Guyger is trained to get in a position of concealment and cover in such situations. The former officer could’ve called for assistance, but Hermus argued she made the decision to kill from outside Jean’s door.
“She decided from outside, from a position of safety, that she was going to engage what she called ‘the threat,’” Hermus said.
Hermus said Guyger acted unreasonably during the shooting, particularly by missing several details that a trained officer should’ve noticed. He held up Jean’s signature red doormat, and told the jury she failed to notice it.
“You can’t miss this,” Hermus said. “And she walked up to it and stood on top of it.”
In his final remarks, he spoke directly to Guyger:
“By God, in Dallas County, Texas,” Hermus said, “there will be a consequence for you shooting an unarmed, defenseless man.”
After the jury left the courtroom, Hermus walked over to Allison Jean, embracing her and kissing her cheek.
She and her husband looked straight ahead as they watched the attorneys make closing arguments. They looked down when photos of first responders trying to save Jean’s life filled the large screens in the courtroom.
But afterward, by the elevators, she looked like she could barely contain her emotions as her face crumpled while family and attorneys comforted her.