By: Clare Bruce
It was an astonishing and rare display of Christ-like love in a Texas courtroom, when a young man forgave the Dallas woman who shot and killed his brother.
Former police officer Amber Guyger was on trial for fatally shooting Botham Jean, in his own apartment, in 2018.
The case attracted much media attention, as Guyger, a white police officer, had entered the home of 26-year-old Botham, a black man, thinking it was her own apartment, then mistook Botham for an intruder – and instinctively reacted by shooting him at close range.
During the trial, the defendant’s attorney made the controversial move of trying to use a defence known as The Castle Doctrine, which protects people who defend themselves in their own home. The move failed.
Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“I Love You As a Person… I Don’t Wish Anything Bad On You”
While an angry crowd protested against Guyger outside the courtroom, inside, an incredible scene of forgiveness and reconciliation was unfolding.
“I don’t want to say twice or for the 100th time what you’ve or how much you’ve taken from us. I think you know that,” he said.
He urged Guyger to ask God for forgiveness and “give her life to Christ”.
“I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do… I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”
“But I just, I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past,” he said. “Each and every one of us may have done something we’re not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you.
“And I don’t think anyone can say it – again I’m speaking for myself and not on behalf of my family – but I love you just like anyone else. And I’m not gonna say ‘I hope you rot and die just like my brother did’, but I personally want the best for you.
“And I wasn’t gonna ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you. Because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do, and the best would be give your life to Christ. I’m not gonna say anything else. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.
“Again I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”
Brandt then asked the judge for permission to step down from the witness stand and embrace Guyger, saying, “I don’t know if this is possible but can I give her a hug please? Please?”
The pair walked to the middle of the court room, and embraced at length – three times – while speaking quietly to one another in front of the judge, as a security guard and attorneys stood in close proximity.
Guyger showed visible emotion and sobs could be heard in the courtroom as she was being embraced.
Defence attorney Toby Shook later called it an “amazing moment” and told Fox News that he’d “never seen anything like it”.
“When he began to ask the judge if he could hug her, she was saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes’, over again and again,” he said.
Another of Guyger’s defence attorney Robert Rogers said, “I can’t talk about it without getting choked up. For all the love and grace that’s come out of this… to get here, is amazing – from a few people just showing grace.”
The victim’s sister, Bethane Middleton-Brown, had also expressed grace in her own statement on the witness stand, saying, “We have no room for hate. So we have to forgive.”
Judge Gives Convicted Killer a Bible; Anti-Religion Group Files Complaint
After the court hearing was concluded Judge Tammy Kemp, also a Christian, embraced the parents of the victim – and in a rarely seen move, also hugged the convicted woman at length, then handed over her own Bible as a gift.
She encouraged her to read the Bible, saying, “This is your job for the next month”.
The Freedom From Religion foundation has since filed an ethics complaint against Kemp over the gesture. In a letter they said the gift of a Bible was inappropriate, unconstitutional and an abuse of power – despite the compassion behind it.
“Compassion crossed the line into coercion,” the group wrote.
But defence attorney Robert Rogers said the judge’s gesture of giving Amber a Bible was an example of “using her power in terms of the rehabilitation”.
The high-profile trial again placed the spotlight on entrenched attitudes within America’s police forces, with Guyger known for often posting aggressive, violent-sounding memes on her social media accounts.
Outside the court room after the verdict was handed down, Botham’s and Brandt’s mother gave a speech referencing the problem of institutionalised violence in the police force: “If Amber Guyger was trained not to shoot in the heart, my son would be standing here today,” she said. “He was no threat to her. He had no reason to pose a threat to her because he was in his own apartment, in his sanctuary.”
She said she hoped Guyger would use her time behind bars to change her ways.
“That 10 years in prison is 10 years for her reflection, and for her to change her life,” she said.
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.
About the Author: Clare is a digital journalist for the Broadcast Industry.