Trial of Botham Jean’s Killer Begins


Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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34 Responses

  1. Police defenders are going to have an awfully hard time with this one, but I remain confident that they’ll find some absurd excuse to make executing an innocent man after having broken into his home somehow okay in the grander scheme of things.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If you wanna go back and read the comments from the last couple of times we discussed this, you can go here and here.

    I’m still wondering what will come out that we don’t know yet. The “bad breakup” theory has apparently been debunked.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Jaybird says:

      I read about this case and I wonder how someone can get to a place where they would do this, even though the evidence strongly says that she did.

      So I take your wondering to be along the same lines. Usually racial animus does not drive one to walk into someone else’s apartment and shoot them in cold blood. What else was going on?Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        It doesn’t even have to be anything more than the end result of police culture conditioning. When you are steeped in a culture that believes that coming home alive is the most important thing, and that all sorts of people are just itching to kill you, and that it’s best to shoot first and sort it out later…Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          What does this appear to be on the surface assuming a best case scenario?

          A cop worked a long shift, got home after too long a shift, parked on a floor in the lot she doesn’t normally park on and then followed a path she usually followed to get to “her” apartment, walked in, saw people in “her” apartment, and she shot them.

          On the way to this happening, she failed to notice at least a half dozen things that would have told her that she was on the wrong floor.

          And that’s the *GOOD* scenario.

          Taking the good scenario at face value (which, let me say, I’m still not sure I should), the debate ought to be over how long she ought to go to jail.

          Whether a decade is too short or not. Whether it ought to be 20 years.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

            Not sure if we have any TX attorneys here but it would be interesting to know if the murder charge encompasses some form of negligent homicide as a lesser included offense.Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

              The article states:
              “If the jury believes Guyger made a sincere error, then that means the shooting wasn’t murder, said John Helms, a Dallas defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. But they could still find her guilty of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, which can also come with heavy sentences, he said.”

              Which strikes me as fortunate as going after Murder requires a different standard and likely leads to an over-charge acquittal.

              My guess is that absent some sort of pre-existing conflict/relationship/connection that serves as a pretext for knowingly killing the man (either in the 1st or 2nd degree) she’s going to be convicted of the lesser charge.

              The other stuff about the police not arresting her, or trying to figure out if they could protect her, or what not is just noise that the Jury won’t hear (or care about)… she’s accused of Murder as a civilian with no qualified immunity. That’s probably more than the rest of us would be charged with (absent the aggravating circumstances noted above).

              Though quite likely I’m over/under-interpreting some aspects of the law regarding murder.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

                In my experience the inclination of state’s attorneys is to err on the side of over-charging not under-charging. The practical reason is that it serves as leverage to force a plea. Even a small risk of a life sentence can get most people to fold. There are also potential double jeopardy issues that weigh in favor of charging everything remotely possible arising from the conduct in question.

                Some of the other attorneys here with more experience in crim might disagree but I think most people would face a murder charge under these facts.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:

                Over charging can also be a strategy for acquittal. If the jury convicts, they are a hero for getting a dangerous cop off the street, if the jury acquits, they are a hero to the police for not letting one of their own go to prison for an ‘honest mistake’.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        What else was going on?

        Supposedly she was sexting her partner and thus distracted as well as up-for-30+-hours tired.

        To repeat myself from the last time we talked about this, it makes a lot more “sense” if alcohol was involved. However an extremely tired cop walking around glued to her smartphone and not noticing anything might just be stupid enough to be the truth.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

      What’s coming out so far is that she was having an affair with somebody and that this may have been the thing that distracted her. Oh, and that the Dallas Police Department rallied around her, did everything it could to protect her, and treated Jean’s killing as not being any sort of big deal.

      BUT, presumably all of the good cops we are routinely promised exist are just about to testify against her.Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Every once in a while, you get bodycam footage like this (warning: someone is shot and killed by police).

    For those who don’t want to watch it, the officer is in his patrol car, he’s rear ended by someone, and as he gets out to deal with the collision, the person who rear ended him rushes him with a knife, knocks him down, drops the knife, picks it up again, and rushes the officer again. All the while, the officer is scrambling to get to his feet and unholster his sidearm while telling the guy to back off, leave him alone, and drop the knife. The officer finally gets his sidearm out and shoots once, killing his assailant.

    That’s as clear cut as it gets, and thankfully there is body cam footage making it clear cut. The officer can, quite legitimately, claim he was in fear for his life.

    I’m not saying every incident needs to be that desperate, but they should be much closer to that than a lot of them are.Report

  4. Avatar JoeSal says:

    I sure am glad the left thinks only enforcement should be fully armed, because police have that statist super sensory of situational awareness, way, way beyond what mere civilians could ever….bla, bla, blaReport

  5. The judge has announced that the jury IS allowed to consider Texas’s Castle Doctrine law, which allows an individual to defend themselves with deadly force if necessary. <a href=""It is unclear how illegally being in Botham Jean's apartment constitutes defending one's castle, but here we are.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

      Five years ago, I asked why in the hell a defendant who was on trial for weed who was acting legally in accordance with state law wouldn’t be legally allowed to bring that up during the trial.

      I was told that, hey, Judges could do that.

      So to clear up any of your confusion: Judges can allow and disallow defenses. At a whim, it seems. Co-Equal, baby.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

      Even if he were in her apartment (accepting her claim to have mistaken the floor), and he were behaving as he must have been in reality, like a person in his own home – sitting on the couch eating a bowl of ice cream, not charging her or brandishing a weapon – she could have retreated. So, there wouldn’t have been an attack for her to defend herself against no matter where the events took place.Report

  6. Avatar greginak says:

    Well, they found her guilty. Good for the jury. They got it right.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      I admit: I did not see that coming.

      (Maybe we could still argue that this just demonstrates how the jury system discriminates against non-sexists…)Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        I thought this was too egregious a case to get a not guilty. Of course in the Good Ol US of A that isn’t the kind of thing to be to sure of.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

          Given that Mesa cop who was acquitted of murdering the man laying prone on the floor, I did not see this coming.

          On the plus side, given that the jury was allowed to consider Castle Doctrine, the avenues for appeal probably just got a lot fewer.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I admit: I have no idea how the jury was allowed to consider Castle Doctrine.

            Like, I have argued that people on trial for weed on Federal Charges ought to be able to argue that, hey, they were acting in accordance with State Law as part of their defense and I have been told that I don’t understand Rules 401 and 403.

            Is being allowed to consider Castle Doctrine for houses that are not your own some part of Rule 402 or something?Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Oh cops can get away with just normal levels of obviously egregious murder. This was just a tad beyond that. If she was on duty she would have likely walked.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

        Did not see Murder conviction coming… thought lesser charge would prevail.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Richard Nixon’s* take: