As they began their second day of deliberations Tuesday morning, the jurors deciding the fate of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger asked questions seeking clarity.
The jurors, who deliberated for almost three hours Monday with no verdict, are weighing if Guyger should be found guilty of murder in the shooting death of her 26-year-old neighbor Botham Jean. In September 2018, Guyger entered Jean’s apartment, mistaking it for her own, and thought he was an intruder, she testified. The judge has also told the jury they can consider manslaughter.
The jury asked the court on Tuesday morning for a definition of manslaughter and more information on Texas’ Castle Doctrine, or “stand your ground defense,” which they have been allowed to consider in this case, according to one of the civil attorneys who represents Jean’s family, Daryl Washington. CourtTV reported the judge said the jury already has all the information they need.
Manslaughter is defined as when a person “recklessly causes the death of another individual,” according to Texas law.
More than four hours of jury deliberations have passed as of 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The jury light came on again about 10 a.m., indicating jurors have another question or note, but no one has yet announced what that was. The jury’s notes to the judge are under seal because of a gag order in the case and have not been read in open court.
During closing arguments, Dallas County prosecutor Jason Hermus said he rejected the notion it’s reasonable for a trained Dallas police officer with five years of service to shoot an unarmed, innocent man in the chest.
Guyger’s defense attorney Toby Shook said the law protects people in certain circumstances who make mistakes based on incorrect assumptions and that the state must rule out every possible reasonable doubt, or the jury must hand down a not guilty verdict. He said the shooting was a tragic mistake.
Prosecutors have said they don’t believe the Castle Doctrine should apply in this case because the law is designed to allow people to protect themselves in their own homes, and Guyger shot Jean in his apartment.
Prosecutors also argued that Jean was shot while he was sitting on the couch and perhaps trying to get up. He had been sitting in his living room eating ice cream. They also presented evidence that there was no blood on Guyger’s clothing and the gloves she possessed were unsoiled, indicating she might not have given CPR to Jean.
Guyger testified that Jean was coming toward her when she fired her gun, and that she couldn’t see his hands and didn’t know if he was armed. She was afraid he was going to kill her, she said.
If Guyger is convicted of murder, she faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. If convicted of manslaughter, she could face a two- to 20-year prison sentence or it is possible she could be eligible for probation.