Moments after a jury sentenced Amber Guyger Wednesday for murdering Black PwC associate Botham Jean in his own apartment, both the victim’s younger brother and the Black judge who presided over the case hugged the white ex-Dallas cop.
“I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug please, please,” Brandt Jean asked Judge Tammy Kemp after she allowed him to make a statement on the stand Wednesday.
Kemp hesitated before she said, “yes.”
Brandt Jean had just admitted he didn’t want to see Guyger go to jail.
When the judge consented to him hugging the former cop, she wept and threw her arms around the 18-year-old’s neck.
Kemp wiped away tears with a tissue before she also hugged Guyger and gave her a Bible.
“This is your job for the next month,” Kemp said, directing Guyger to read John 3:16.
Activists and social media users criticized the leniency Guyger’s been given, but some people who spoke out online cheered on the courtroom reactions as displays of empathy.
“All the King’s Men” actor Charlie Newell tweeted, “This young man is a living example of real love. #LoveWins #forgiveness #mercytriumphs”
Shelly Golay, the white owner of an industrial supply company in Casper, Wyoming, tweeted in response to Christian evangelist Franklin Graham’s post about Brandt Jean.
“I pray for AmberGuyger and that Christ will do an amazing work in her,” Golay said in the response. “What a gift Christ gave her thru his brother.”
Writer and civil rights activist Shaun King tweeted Thursday that while he’s not arguing for harsher sentencing or less compassionate courtrooms, that compassion isn’t doled out equally.
“I am saying that who gets harsh sentencing and who gets a break, with hugs & Bibles from judges & hair petted on by the police falls suspiciously down lines of race & privilege,” King said.
The Ethical Society of Police, which is based in St. Louis, tweeted an ABC News story about a man who shot and killed a police dog and was sentenced 45 years in prison.
“Just in case you wonder what a black life is worth,” the anti-discrimination organization said on Twitter Thursday. “We love animals, especially our police dogs, but even a man that killed a police dog got more time than Amber Guyger.”
Brandt Jean said on the stand that he didn’t want to say for the 100th time how much Guyger has “taken from us.”
“I think you know that,” he said. “I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past.
“Each and every one of us may have done something that we’re not supposed to do.”
“If you truly are sorry,” the 18-year-old said, “I know I can speak for myself. I forgive you, and I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.”
Jean emphasized he wasn’t speaking on behalf of his family.
“But I love you just like anyone else,” he told the former officer. “And I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, but I personally want the best for you.”
He added: “And I wasn’t ever going to say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do, and the best would be give your life to Christ.”
Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother, also made statements after the sentence was announced. She spoke at a press conference in a hall of the Dallas County courthouse.
“Yesterday we saw the conviction of Amber Guyger, and today we heard the sentence of 10 years in prison,” the woman said Wednesday. “That 10 years in prison is 10 years for her reflection and for her to change her life, but there is much more to be done by the city of Dallas.
“The corruption that we saw during this process must stop, and it must stop for you,” she said, “because after now, I leave Dallas, but you live in Dallas. And it must stop for everyone.”