The judge presiding over the highly-publicized trial of ex-Dallas police officer Amber Guyger decided in the defense’s favor on legal matters so essential to the case they could sway a jury in the direction of a not-guilty verdict as both the prosecution and the defense issued their closing arguments to send the case to deliberations.
That verdict now rests heavily on Guyger’s perception at the time of the shooting, according to Judge Tammy Kemp’s rulings Monday.
Guyger has said she thought she was in her own apartment when she saw PwC associate Botham Jean, thought he was an intruder and shot him in his own unit Sept. 6, 2018.
In order to find Guyger guilty of murdering Jean, a jury would have to find one of those claims unreasonable — either Guyger’s belief that Jean was a threat or her belief that she was in her apartment.
“The court is going to leave this to the jury to decide,” Judge Tammy Kemp said.
The ruling was a win for Guyger’s defense, as was a decision Kemp made when the trial continued two hours into the weekend Saturday.
That’s when Kemp approved expert testimony that Guyger experienced what’s called “in-attentional blindness” when she entered Jean’s apartment instead of her own, according to CBS DFW.
“It’s the tendency of the human brain to filter out visual images that are not relevant to the primary target,” former Dallas Independent School District Police Chief Craig Miller said.
But even with those decisions in the defense’s favor, Kemp was criticized as being unfair to the defense for not allowing Miller or Texas Ranger David Armstrong to testify about whether Guyger was being reasonable in shooting Jean based on her state of mind.
Attorney Pete Schulte, who has worked on both sides of the legal system, told CBS DFW Saturday he believes the testimony should have been allowed.
“It’s shocking to me that some of the information that they’re trying to put in front of the jury as experts is being excluded by the court,” Schulte said. “I think it’s a mistake.
“I think that it potentially is showing some bias against the defense and for the state.”
Jean’s family attorney, Lee Merritt, backed the judge on Twitter Wednesday.
“TX Ranger Armstrong met w/ me and the Jean’s before he officially began his investigation,” Merritt said. “He told us THEN that he didn’t believe Guyger did anything wrong.
“No wonder his subsequent investigation confirmed his preconceived conclusion. He has NO credibility.”
At this point, the case relies heavily on whether jurors think Guyger should be protected by a set of laws dubbed the Castle Doctrine.
Those laws give individuals faced with a threat the right to protect their property in Texas.
Even though Guyger wasn’t in her apartment at the time of the shooting, Kemp’s earlier ruling means that the Castle protections would extend to Guyger if a jury finds the ex-cop’s claims reasonable.
“This is really the crux of this case,” the prosecution argued Monday morning as they began closing arguments.
Guyger faces five to 99 years in prison if found guilty, CBS DFW reported.