You may remember the killing of a Black man, Botham Jean on September 6th, 2018, but in case you’ve forgotten, allow me to refresh your memory.
Mr. Jean, a college graduate and an accountant, was sitting in his living room on the 4th floor of his apartment building watching television and eating ice cream on that fateful evening. Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was off duty and returning home from her shift. Her apartment was one floor below Mr. Jean’s, on the third floor, but she somehow mistakenly went to the 4th floor and allegedly believed Mr. Jean’s apartment was her own. She claims that his door was ajar, she assumed there was a burglar inside, and when she entered and saw him sitting there, she shot him dead. When she called police, the dispatcher asked for her location, and she had to go look at the number on the door to see where she even was. I don’t know about you folks, but if I walked into an apartment that wasn’t mine, I would immediately know I was in the wrong apartment! And how many burglars are going to sit around in their shorts, watching television and eating ice cream???
When I first wrote about this murder shortly after it happened, I sensed that if Mr. Jean had been a white man, he would still be alive today. Nothing I have read has changed my mind. A number of my readers also commented that there seemed to be some missing pieces, that there was likely more to the story than met the eye.
At any rate, it was several days before Guyger was arrested, and then she was only charged with manslaughter. The charges were later upgraded to murder, and on November 30, 2018, Guyger was indicted on murder charges by a Dallas County grand jury. The following year, on October 1st, 2019, Guyger was convicted on the charges of murder and sentenced to ten years in prison. On August 7th, 2020, Guyger’s attorneys filed an appeal, alleging that insufficient evidence existed to convict her of murder. The appeal sought either an acquittal, or a reduction in charge to criminally negligent homicide with a new hearing for sentencing on the reduced charge.
This week on Thursday, August 5th, a panel of three state judges on the Texas appeals court upheld the murder conviction, denying her appeal. She remains in prison and will become eligible for parole in 2024. Sadly, Mr. Jean will not be eligible to have his life restored. This is one of only two cases I am aware of in the past decade where a white police officer has been held fully accountable for the murder of an unarmed Black person, the other of course being the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. It is good to see justice work, but there are so many more who need the long arm of the law to encircle them and carry them off to prison, such as officers Myles Cosgrove and Joshua Jaynes in Louisville, Kentucky, who shot and killed a Black woman, Breonna Taylor, while she slept in her own bed!
And since I’ve mentioned George Floyd and the conviction of Derek Chauvin, let me just touch on another topic that is disturbing me. A coalition of news media outlets has asked the judge who oversaw the trial of Derek Chauvin to release the identities of jurors who convicted him in the death of George Floyd. Attorneys for the coalition, which includes Fox ‘News’, the Associated Press, and even The Washington Post, is asking not only for the names of the jurors, which would be bad enough, but also for the juror profiles that would include such things as age, address, place of employment, etc.
Judge Peter Cahill had previously ordered the information sealed for the safety of the jurors. Think about it … how many white supremacists were incensed by Chauvin’s conviction and sentencing to 22.5 years in prison? How safe would you feel if you had been on that jury and one of these media outlets released your name to the public?
Attorney Leita Walker said the media and public have a right to information about a jury and said that that Chauvin’s trial is over “and there is no way that jurors’ fears of intimidation, harassment, or violence can unfairly impact their deliberations.” She also wrote that the coalition knows of no threat to any juror or prospective juror. Well duh … did you think they would contact you and say “We plan to kill harass, intimidate, and kill the jurors, so give us their names”? She said the court’s desire to protect jurors from unwanted publicity or harassment are not grounds to keep their identities sealed under law, and that “much has changed” in the months since the jury rendered its verdict “and at this juncture, resistance to releasing their names appears based on little more than a desire to have them left alone.”
Make no mistake … I am all for freedom of the press, and transparency to the extent that it makes sense and is not endangering people. However … jury duty is an important responsibility that ALL of us should take seriously, and most of us do. We do not, however, undertake this responsibility in order to be harassed and intimidated, to feel that our lives are in danger. Sorry, media, but this time you’re just plain wrong.