“We feel like we’ve been condemned too”: the trauma of the Jean family has been prolonged
For the past few years, former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger has hoped to appeal her conviction and conviction for the 2018 murder of an unarmed man in her apartment. But now that the highest criminal court of the state upheld his murder conviction and 10-year prison sentence on Wednesday, Guyger may be running out of options.
Meanwhile, the family of the man she shot and killed say they have not had the chance to mourn their loved one, Botham Jean, 26, throughout the saga surrounding the deadly shooting.
Guyger fatally shot Jean, who is black, after entering his home on September 6, 2018. He was eating ice cream when Guyger entered. Guyger says she thought it was her house and he was an intruder, so she shot him. Guyger lived upstairs above Jean.
She was arrested, fired from the department, and charged with murder.
She was convicted and sentenced in 2019 and appealed last year. Guyger hoped to receive a lesser sentence through her appeal, arguing that she should be charged with criminally negligent homicide instead of murder.
After the appeal was filed, Lee Merritt, the Jean family’s attorney, said it showed Guyger had no regrets about his actions. “After admitting his crime and asking for mercy from the family of Botham Jean, Guyger’s actions in filing this appeal reflect someone who does not repent but rather hoped to play on the sympathies of the family at a time when they were most vulnerable,” Merritt told CNN.
Guyger thinks the charge should be reduced as she believed her life was in danger, justifying lethal force. Guyger faced 100 years behind bars on the murder charge. The sentence for homicide by criminal negligence is between 180 days and two years. She also argued that because she thought she was in her own apartment, she shouldn’t be guilty of murder.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get a chance to sit down and mourn Botham.” – Alissa Charles-Findley, Jean’s sister
But the Court of Criminal Appeals declined to hear Gugyer’s appeal on Wednesday. The Dallas Morning News reported on the decision shortly after it happened. Guyger’s attorney, Michael Mowla, did not respond to a request for comment. The Court of Appeal has final jurisdiction in criminal cases. That means Guyger has few, if any, options for his call.
After the appeal was filed last year, Alissa Charles-Findley, Jean’s sister, told the Observer his family’s mourning continued.
“I don’t think I really had time to mourn my brother because it’s just one event after another,” Charles-Findley said at the time. “We had to deal with burying him, choosing a casket, dealing with the Texas Rangers and the case, and then the trial happened. After the trial, now it’s the appeal.”
Charles-Findley said she didn’t feel much different after the conviction and sentence were appealed this week.
“There’s no sense of relief or that we can move on when these calls keep popping up,” she said. I take it one day at a time. I don’t think we’ll ever get a chance to sit down and mourn Botham.
With a civil lawsuit pending against the city and Guyger out on parole in 2024, Charles-Findley said the future is uncertain for her and her family.
“There are so many things a grieving family has to deal with. It adds to our trauma,” she said. “We feel like we’ve been doomed too.”