Ex-Dallas cop Amber Guyger can’t get a fair trial in Dallas, attorneys argue

An ex-Dallas police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in September after the officer walked into his apartment won’t be able to have a fair trial in Dallas County, according to defense attorneys.

Amber Guyger, 30, is charged with murder in the Sept. 6 death of Botham Shem Jean, 26. Guyger has said that she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own when she got home after an extended day at work, according to Dallas police. Guyger was off-duty but still in uniform when she shot Jean, whom she believed was a burglar, police said.

Now, Robert Rogers, Toby Shook and Michael Mowla — attorneys for the former officer — say that “media hysteria” will not allow Guyger to have a fair trial. They requested the Sept. 23 trial be moved to Collin, Grayson, Kaufman, Ellis, Rockwall or Fannin County.

There are 296 news articles from local media alone relating to the case, according to the motion to change venue. The motion also mentions other national news organizations.

“This coverage has ranged from the absurd like what (Guyger) wore to a court-setting to outrageous like falsehoods about (Guyger) being a racist and comparisons of the incident to ‘ ... a form of lynching,’” the document says.

It further alleges that the media immediately “began reverberating the false-narrative that merely because (Guyger) is white and Mr. Jean was black, the incident must have been racial in nature,” and includes dozens of quotes from officials and attorneys who mentioned both Guyger and Jean’s race when talking to the media.

The document attacks former Dallas County leaders and individuals who tweeted commentary about the shooting.

It says former Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson spearheaded the coverage.

The motion also alleges that attorneys for the Jean family released information before it was made public and “attempted to encourage the prime minister of St. Lucia (Mr. Jean’s home-country) to ‘engage the United State government and say, ‘Our citizen was killed in your country in an unbelievable way, and we are looking to you to make sure that justice is done.’”

Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings also said he spoke with the prime minister.

“I offered my apologizes on the behalf of the City of Dallas,” Rawlings said two days after the shooting.

The document also blames presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke for entering “the fray” by mentioning the case and calling for Guyger’s firing during a 2018 campaign stop in Dallas, and Dallas Councilman Scott Griggs, who tweeted that Jean “was killed under very suspicious circumstances.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.