Crime

Dallas Police Association asked for ex-police officer’s murder trial to be delayed

A request from the Dallas Police Association president that the murder trial of a fired police officer be delayed for one or two months so that there would be adequate staff to handle emergencies has been met with criticism.

But Mike Mata, DPA president, said he made the request to the Dallas District Attorney’s Office a month ago and is now resigned that the Amber Guyger trial will go forward as scheduled next week.

Guyger is charged with murder in the death of Botham Shem Jean, 26, who she fatally shot Sept. 6, 2018, in Dallas. Guyger was fired from the Dallas police force after the shooting.

Guyger, who was in uniform but off duty at the time of the shooting, has said that she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own and thought he was an intruder.

The judge sets the trial dates and the district attorney’s office has nothing to do with that process, Dallas County DA John Creuzot’s office said.

Mata said there are not enough officers on the street now to handle routine situations and that violent crime and homicides are increasing.

Add to those worries the 200,000 people who might be drawn to the State Fair of Texas on a weekend day and it creates a risk that emergency calls will not be answered in a timely manner, Mata said.

Evidence of the police department’s manpower issue can be seen in the city’s refusal to grant any further discretionary leave during the days the trial is scheduled to take place, Mata said.

“This will go to trial on the [September] 23rd and there is nothing that I can do to delay that,” Mata said.

But police do have an obligation to protect the public and the people who will be protesting during the trial and that will be difficult to do with the existing number of officers, Mata argued.

“We don’t have the manpower to go to all the protests that are planned,” Mata said. “When they walk through the street, the police have an obligation to protect them. So what happens when there is a shooting or a rape in progress? People could suffer unnecessarily when they didn’t have to and that’s my only point.”

If there had been a delay for one or two months, no one would have noticed, Mata said. There are a number of murder trials that have been on the courts’ dockets for more than two years, according to Mata. Asking for a delay has nothing to do with an expectation of violence, he said.

But, the police always train for the worst and hope for the best, Mata said.

“If this goes bad, all 3,000 [Dallas] officers will be in the streets,” Mata said. “The mayor, judge, activists will not be there. With the stroke of a pen this could have been delayed 30 days and no one would have known the difference.”

Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys representing the Jean family, said it would be more prudent to delay the State Fair of Texas. The fair is scheduled to start Sept. 27.

“The state fair is far less important than this quest for justice,” Merritt said. “Increasing the delay of the trial helps the defense. Obviously the [police] association is pro-police and their hope is that Guyger will be acquitted.”

Dominique Alexander, founder of the Dallas chapter of the Next Generation Action Network, who is organizing a protest outside the court building where the Guyger trial will be heard, said that Guyger’s lawyers have done everything they could to move or delay this trial, and he sees the police association’s request as a continuation of that effort.

“In my eyes, there is not a chance in hell that this trial will be delayed,” Alexander said. “This is what Mike Mata likes to do. He wants to continue to grandstand with no substance.”

Alexander is facing a domestic violence charge in Dallas County, which is pending trial.

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Mitch Mitchell is an award-winning reporter covering courts and crime for the Star-Telegram. Additionally, Mitch’s past coverage on municipal government, healthcare and social services beats allow him to bring experience and context to the stories he writes.
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