Hundreds of potential jurors stuffed the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas on Friday morning for the first day of jury selection in the murder trial of former police officer Amber Guyger.
Friday marked the one-year anniversary of Guyger’s fatal shooting of her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean, as he prepared to watch football inside his Dallas apartment.
Daryl Washington, an attorney for Jean’s family, said the family is back in St. Lucia — where Jean is from — waiting on pins and needles for information.
“This is the very start of the trial, it starts today,” Washington said.
When jurors are summoned, they are generally addressed by attorneys on both sides along with the presiding judge. However, it’s not known what was said to the more than 500 potential jurors because reporters from the Star-Telegram and other major DFW outlets were at first denied access into the Central Jury Room by Judge Tammy Kemp.
Jurors who were excused from the summons told a Star-Telegram reporter that they were instructed not to talk to members of the press.
After reporters tried to gain access a second time, Kemp addressed the media and said she didn’t allow members of the press or other members of the public who weren’t summoned inside the courtroom because the Dallas fire marshal told her overcrowding was an issue.
Asked why a bench wasn’t left open for members of the public, Kemp said that wasn’t her priority.
The media was allowed in at 11 a.m.
At that time, jurors who weren’t already excused by Kemp were left to quietly fill out a questionnaire packet. Attorneys on both sides will review the questionnaires before the jury pool returns to the courtroom at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 13.
Attorneys and Kemp will attempt to narrow the jury pool to 12 jurors and four alternates.
Those jurors will not be tasked with deciding whether or not Guyger shot Jean. Instead, they will have to decide if Guyger’s actions fall under the law as murder, manslaughter, another crime, or no crime at all.
Kemp will also have to answer a motion for a change of venue that was filed by Guyger’s defense attorneys in July. The motion claims Guyger can’t have a fair trial in Dallas County because of “media hysteria.”
Instead of ruling on the motion when it was filed, Kemp decided to see if an impartial jury could be found in Dallas County first.
After seeing the massive response to the jury summons, Lee Merritt, another attorney for Jean’s family, said he’s confident they’ll find a jury in Dallas County.
“We see more people here than I’ve ever seen in the courtroom,” he said. “It’s just a huge response and that is a promising sight for the family.”
Her trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 23, unless a venue change is ordered.