Dallas, TX – A Texas jury sentenced former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger to 10 years in prison for the murder of her neighbor Botham Jean, whom she shot mistakenly believing she was in her own apartment.
The jury convicted Guyger of murder on Tuesday after about five hours of deliberation and the former police officer was facing five to 99 years in prison for the conviction.
The sentencing phase of the trial began on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Guyger was convicted.
In Texas, a defendant may elect, before trial, to have the jury determine the sentence in the event of a conviction instead of the judge, according to law firm Bennett & Bennett.
Also, unlike many jurisdictions where the sentencing phase of the trial is scheduled for several weeks or months later, Texas sentencing hearings commence as soon as the verdict has been read.
Historically, Texas judges have been elected on “tough on crime” platforms, and have a reputation for giving stiffer penalties than juries, which leads more defendants to choose a jury trial and jury sentencing than would do so in another state, Bennett & Bennett explained.
In addition to deciding the sentence, Judge Tammy Kemp instructed the jury that they could consider whether the “sudden passion defense” applied in Guyger’s case, CBS News reported.
Texas Penal Code allows that if a defendant convicted of first-degree murder can prove during the sentencing phase that they killed the victim under the "immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause," the conviction would be reduced to second-degree murder.
That meant that the jury could reduce Guyger’s sentencing range to two to 20 years if they believed she acted in the heat of the moment, CBS News reported.
However, the jury did not determine that Guyger had shot Jean in a moment of passion and her conviction stood at first degree murder.
The jury sentence Guyger to only 10 of a possible 99 years in prison and elected not to give her any fine.
Officer Guyger was initially arrested on a manslaughter charge on Sept. 9, three days after she fatally shot Jean in his apartment.
A grand jury later indicted her for murder. A murder conviction could put Guyger behind bars for life, whereas manslaughter would have carried a maximum penalty of 20 years, the Dallas Morning News reported.
On Wednesday morning, Jean’s parents told the jury how their family had been affected by his death, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Then prosecutors introduced text messages that they said showed the former police officer who shot Jean had a racial bias, CNN reported.
They also revisited a series of text messages between Guyger and her former partner and married police boyfriend, Officer Martin Rivera.
"Damn I was at this area with 5 different black officers !!! Not racists but damn," Officer Rivera wrote in one message.
"Not racist but just have a different way of working and it shows," then Officer Guyger texted back.
During the trial, prosecutors tried to paint Guyger as self-involved and more concerned about herself after she shot Jean, CNN reported.
They also shared some of Guyger’s social media posts that displayed typical dark cop humor.
“People are so ungrateful. No one ever thanks me for having the patience not to kill them,” she joked under a meme of a Minion from the movie “Despicable Me.”
Prosecutors who cross-examined Guyger accused her of failing to render aid to the man he had shot because she was more worried about herself than her victim, WFAA reported.
Earlier in the week, evidence was presented that showed then-Officer Guyger had texted her police partner boyfriend after she called 911.
Jason Hermus, a prosecutor, grilled the former police officer about why she had failed to stay inside the apartment and perform CPR on the man she had just shot.
“I wanted somebody there fast to give him help," Guyger explained.
She said she went out into the hallway to confirm the address and summon help, WFAA reported.
"You knew how to do CPR properly?" Hermus asked.
"I've never done it on a person," Guyger replied.
Hermus confirmed that she had been trained by the police department to properly perform CPR, WFAA reported.
"Did you properly perform CPR on Mr. Jean?" Hermus asked.
"No, I did not," Guyger replied.
"But you could have, right?" the prosecutor asked.
"I tried to do a little CPR," she said.
“Why would you try to do 'a little CPR' on a man who is dying and needs your full attention?" Hermus hammered back.
The prosecutor also wanted to know why Guyger hadn’t used any of the medical supplies she had in her backpack, WFAA reported.
"Is there a reason why you didn't use this stuff right here, which is designed to control traumatic bleeding?" Hermus asked and pulled out the contents of the first aid kit to show the jury.
"It never crossed my mind," she admitted.
The defense brought in a series of character witnesses for the sentencing, many of whom were not white, to testify about how good a friend and person Guyger has been all of her life to try to mitigate the damage done by the prosecution, CNN reported.
Guyger’s attorneys opted not to have their client testify at her sentencing.