Guyger was convicted in 2019 of second-degree murder in the shooting of the unarmed man, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The case drew national attention and was one shooting in a rash of police killings involving white police officers and Black men. The 5th Texas Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Dallas County had sufficient evidence to convict Guyger, who turns 33 on Monday.
Guyger’s defense attorney Michael Mowla argued that the murder conviction should be thrown out because she was acting in self-defense when she shot Jean, thinking she was in her own apartment and that he was an intruder. Mowla said the lower court judge made an error by failing to instruct the jury to consider that Guyger had a “reasonable belief” she was in her own apartment when she shot Jean, which would have made the shooting reasonable. Mowla asked the court to resentence Guyger on the conviction of criminally negligent homicide, a lesser charge that carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison if the judges decided not to fully acquit her.
Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, was in his apartment eating ice cream on Sept. 6, 2018, when Guyger returned home from a double shift, and mistook his apartment, which was on the floor directly above hers, as her home and entered as his door was slightly ajar. Guyger shot Jean in the chest as he rose from his couch and later testified that she thought he was a burglar.
The panel did not question the facts of the case, and agreed with prosecutors that the error was not reasonable and that Guyger had intended to kill Jean, finding that her belief that deadly force was necessary was also unreasonable.
“That she was mistaken as to Jean’s status as a resident in his own apartment or a burglar in hers does not change her mental state from intentional or knowing to criminally negligent,” the judges wrote in a 23-page opinion. “We decline to rely on Guyger’s misperception of the circumstances leading to her mistaken beliefs as a basis to reform the jury’s verdict in light of the direct evidence of her intent to kill.”
An attorney for Jean’s family said they were relieved to hear the court’s decision.
Guyger could have been sentenced to as many as 99 years in prison and prosecutors had asked that she be sentenced to 28 years, which is the age Jean would have turned during the trial.
Guyger’s defense attorneys could go before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and ask them to review the decision. She will be eligible for parole in 2024 under her current sentence.