Jury Finds Amber Guyger Guilty

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Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    Let’s hope it’s a start, and not a fluke.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon
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      says:

      Yeah. I’m waiting for the appeal.

      (And the civil suit.)Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Who is filing the civil suit in this scenario?Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Civil suit against whom? The city? She wasn’t on duty. Her? Well that’s fine but she has other problems.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Dark Matter
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          says:

          In this case it would be against her. Given her status, and assuming no hidden cache of riches, she is probably judgment proof but that doesn’t mean Jean’s parents or some other relative with stading won’t go out and get one.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter
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          says:

          Too bad you can’t sue in civil court for obstruction of justice, and then go after the police for attempting to shield Guyer.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dark Matter
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          says:

          Did *ANY* part of her defense rest on her copidom or her training?Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            Her entire excuse was that she was exhausted from working a long shift. Is that close enough though to connect it directly?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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              says:

              I understand that civil law works differently than criminal.

              Do I think that it’s a “beyond reasonable doubt”? No.
              Do I think that they could get past the 50-yard line? Yeah. I think they might. (Especially if she had sexted a co-worker immediately before the incident. Let the cops argue “we have no responsibility for how trained our cops are”.)Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                What part of “off duty” is unclear? It is perfectly fine for her to sext (or even have sex) with someone off duty. Not only did the city not have any control on off duty sex(ish) habits but it shouldn’t.

                Here the city was NOT forcing her to carry around a gun while she was too tired to make good judgements. If she’s so tired that killing random people is a concern then she could take a nap in her car (I’ve done exactly that when I’ve decided I’m too tired to drive).

                I’d think you’d have a better (but probably not successful) case against the owners of the apartment building for making identical floors. Some buildings are really into that and floor confusion can be a thing.

                I’d call her level of responsibility roughly the same as if she’d been driving home and ran over someone while sexting.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                What part of “off duty” is unclear?

                For the record, the part that is unclear to me is the extent to which the department is responsible for how she acted. I know she was “off duty”. I don’t see that as particularly relevant to the case *EXCEPT* insofar as what she was off duty *OF* was responsible for her only getting 10 years.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Jaybird
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                It’s quite relevant to the law. The fact that she was acting in a private capacity when all this happened is why we aren’t having the usual conversations about qualified immunity, Graham v. Conor, etc. It greatly increased the chances she would he convicted because the usual doctrines that relieve police officers from responsibility didn’t apply.

                Now maybe there is a policy argument about the department retaining incompetent people then letting them stow their own service weapons, but that isn’t based on any existing law I am aware of.

                Maybe her job led to some leniency from the judge but the state asked for 28 years.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to InMD
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                says:

                I’m unclear on the entire point of this discussion thread.

                Are we suggesting that there won’t be a wrongful-death civil suit against Guyger?Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to DensityDuck
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                says:

                The others who started it should chime in but the questions I see are:

                1.who would the suit be against (Guyger or the PD/municipality)? and

                2.did Guyger’s day job influenced the sentence?Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to InMD
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                says:

                Isn’t the standard legal strategy in this type of situation to sue everybody that a jury might decide had some degree of culpability, especially those with deep pockets?

                Eg, that Guyger worked an extended shift and then went home with her loaded duty weapon isn’t a “mistake,” it’s due to negligence by the police department.

                I feel reasonably sure that whichever insurer underwrites the liability policy for the dept and/or city has already thought about that question.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                You sue who you can sue under applicable law. For Guyger personally it depends on TX tort law. My guess is they have a wrongful death statute or statutes of some kind that sets out who can sue under it but again a TX attorney would need to chime in.

                Suing the sovereign is a whole other can of worms. Again I don’t know enough about TX law to speak with authority but if it’s anything like MD or any other jurisdiction where I’ve had to research the issue it is very, very difficult to do successfully.

                With respect to a civil rights lawsuit I think CJ’s analysis is right and why the undisputed facts would make it beyond a long shot.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to InMD
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                says:

                I don’t pretend to know Texas tort law, so I’ll restrict my comments to possible federal civil rights suits. It is relevant, but not decisive, that Guyger was off duty. The threshold inquiry for a federal civil rights suit is “state action” or action “under color of law.” Was Guyger doing what she did relying, even wrongly, on her status as a cop? Probably not. Being off duty is only part of the analysis. Off-duty cops do cop things all the time, either literally or metaphorically flashing their badges, sometimes properly and sometimes improperly. An off-duty cop who flashes his badge to break up a bar fight and gets a bit rambunctious about it is acting as a cop, using his authority as a cop to get involved in the matter, and can be sued. If he goes home later and beats up his wife, he isn’t, and can’t. That’s just private wrongdoing by a person who happens to be a cop. He wasn’t literally or metaphorically flashing his badge and using that status to beat up his wife. (He may have been relying on his status for protection from his brothers in blue, and may have thought that his wife would consider complaining to the cops futile for the same reason, but that is not the same thing.)
                Here, it seems, Guyger’s story is that she was acting as a confused private citizen who ended up in the wrong apartment and did what an armed and panicky private citizen might do. She wasn’t investigating something she thought was going on in the apartment or chasing someone she thought was a criminal into it. Nothing she did, whatever we believe about her story, depended on her status as a cop. She may be a badly-trained cop, and a municipality can be held liable for improper training, but the act still has to be a “cop” act before you get to that. If the city does a bad job of training its cops to drive, that wouldn’t make the city liable if she got drunk off duty and ran someone over.
                Maybe some Texas lawyer can weigh in on state-law wrongful death suits.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to CJColucci
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                says:

                I agree 100% (and note I said highly relevant regarding her off duty status, not dispositive).

                I know there a lot of media outlets connecting this to other high profile police shootings but IMO it is subject to a much different legal analysis, at least based on the facts as reported.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to InMD
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                says:

                It is perhaps worth noting that in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the rest of the police department treated her as if she was a cop, and in fact, seemed to emphasize that status ahead of all other concerns.Report

              • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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                says:

                Like my hypothetical off-duty cop wifebeater.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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                says:

                I don’t doubt they closed ranks around her. They seem to do that regardless. Still this always struck me as very different from a legal analysis perspective.

                I have a very strong suspicion for example that if this had occurred during execution of a search warrant she’d have walked and possibly not even been charged. It was dark or whatever and the ice cream scoop looked like a weapon, etc.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEq
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    says:

    Yes. A small measure of justice.Report

  3. Avatar Dark Matter
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    says:

    This is a very good start.

    Agreed.Report

  4. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    From my understanding of the facts of the case, murder seems inappropriate, given that manslaughter was on the table. Was the conclusion of the jury that she totally fabricated the story of mistakenly entering Jean’s home, thinking it was hers, and had in reality entered it knowing full well whose home it was, with the specific intent of murdering Botham Jean?Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      “Under Texas law, convicting a defendant of murder requires proving someone intentionally killed another person, as opposed to manslaughter, in which prosecutors have to show someone was killed because of recklessness.” (NPR)

      The prosecutors alleged criminal intent for two reasons: one, the distraction which caused her to drive to the wrong floor and go to the wrong apartment was not caused by tiredness after working a 13.5 hour shift, but rather caused by the conversation she had immediately prior with her lover trying to arrange a meeting that night, and secondly that she did not follow standard police protocol of not entering a building with a potential burglar inside and instead calling for backup from the police station which was two blocks away. (wiki).

      And she got ten years. So I guess they did believe her somewhat.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Dark Matter
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        says:

        …not entering a building with a potential burglar inside…

        Oh. So the idea is she found the door open at “her” place and some of her stuff had been moved, so she went in to shoot a burglar.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      Brandon,

      Which part of what Guyger did was accidental exactly? She intentionally walked into that apartment, she intentionally drew her weapon, she intentionally shot Botham Jean.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Marchmaine
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          says:

          You (and Brandon) are mistaking motive for intent. Sam is right, she intended to kill him. She pointed the gun right at him and shot him. Keep in mind someone is deemed to intend the natural consequences of their actions and intent can be established essentially instantaneously. It’s a pretty normal 2nd degree murder analysis. Manslaughter would be something more like firing her sevice weapon wildly into a dark apartment not knowing if anyone was there.

          The question then was whether there was some affirmative defense which is where the whole mistake of fact/castle doctrine argument came in.

          The more I think about it the more I think they got this exactly right. These are admittedly really weird facts, and I think the sentence is fair in light of them, and from what I’ve read is still within range for manslaughter in TX.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to InMD
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            says:

            Perhaps.

            It seems that TX definition of Murder is pretty broad, so I won’t dispute the legal distinctions between Capital Murder, Murder, Manslaughter.

            Given that the sentencing guidelines for Manslaughter are 2-20 years; the judge may already have mitigated the Murder charge to Manslaughter, so the point is possibly irrelevant. Unless others are using the technical legal definition of Intent to imply motive.Report

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Marchmaine
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          says:

          Why what?Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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        says:

        Yes, that.

        My original read was she claimed she didn’t realize she had any sort of problem until she ran into Botham after she was inside, and then he was moving for her. However the ME claims otherwise and it’s a bit silly to be walking around in someone else’s apartment without noticing anything.

        It makes more sense if she figured out something-is-wrong at the front door. She gets a predator focus, knows someone is inside, goes in to deal with them. She might even have left the lights off to sneak. She finds him and shoots him.

        I count four errors in judgement. Not noticing the floor was different, not noticing the apartment was different, going in to confront him by herself, and then shooting him while he was sitting on the couch eating ice cream. That last is the biggest because even if she’d been totally right about everything else it still makes this shooting a problem. She presumably decided to kill him before she walked into the apartment.Report

  5. Avatar Slade the Leveller
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    says:

    This case has caused me to wonder why police are allowed to bring their service weapons home. Each officer going home is replaced by the next shift, so there isn’t a reduction in firepower in the street. Is convenience a good enough reason?Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Slade the Leveller
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      says:

      Same reason retired police are basically granted a federal concealed carry permit, the idea that the criminal class will target off duty or retired police, or that such people can be the “good guy with a gun”, so they should be allowed to carry wherever.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Hell of a thing.

    Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I didn’t know that there was video from immediately after the shooting.

    The person who took the video got fired from her job a few days later.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Speaking of civil suits:

    The Dallas man who was murdered shortly after providing key testimony in the trial against killer cop Amber Guyger was set to take the stand in a civil lawsuit against the police department, according to a report.

    Joshua Brown, 28, who was victim Botham Jean’s neighbor, was shot to death Friday night in an ambush outside his apartment in a Dallas neighborhood, according to police. No suspects have been arrested in the slaying.

    Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Dallas Police Department clears up doubts:

    Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Whew!

      CASE CLOSED! Now they can look for the REAL killers,Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        This is part of a thread in which they explain that they’ve *FOUND* the real killers.

        As it turns out, Mr. Brown was a drug dealer who was killed by some people who were buying drugs from him.

        If you would like evidence:

        Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Twitter nocheck expresses skepticism:

    Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    In a vaguely adjacent story:

    Report

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