Day one of former Dallas Police officer Amber Guyger’s murder trial was a test of patience for judge Tammy Kemp
Day one of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger’s murder trial for fatally shooting her unarmed neighbor Botham Jean in his own home more than a year ago was a test of patience for judge Tammy Kemp.
The veteran district court official lost her temper at least twice during Monday’s proceedings, starting with the moment she found out Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot violated a gag order the night before the trial’s start.
Creuzot was seen discussing the Guyger case with a local TV news crew with fox affiliate KDFW, explaining why his office had decided to charge Guyger with murder.
Guyger’s defense attorneys informed Kemp of the situation ahead of the trial’s start while motioning for the judge to declare a mistrial.
‘Oh there was another interview last night?’ Kemp asked.
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Guyger is a former Dallas Police Officer on trial for murder after fatally shooting her unarmed black neighbor, Botham Jean, in his own apartment a year ago
Guyger was charged with first-degree murder in Botham Jean’s death, which is punishable under Texas law with up to life in prison
‘Yes your honor,’ replied one of Guyger’s attorneys, leaving Kemp momentarily speechless.
The judge rolled her eyes, shook her head, and grunted as she turned in her chair to face the back wall before standing up and hunching over.
After composing herself, she turned around to make sure she had heard the attorneys correctly.
‘Let me be clear,’ Kemp said, ‘last night, the evening prior to the start of this trial, our elected DA did an interview about this trial?’
Amber Guyger’s defense attorney informed judge Tammy Kemp on Monday that Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot violated a gag order with a TV interview Sunday
Dallas County DA John Creuzot was seen discussing the Guyger case with a local TV news crew with fox affiliate KDFW , explaining why his office had decided to charge Guyger with murder
Guyger’s defense attorneys argued Creuzot had violated a gag order on court officials and pressed the judge for a mistrial and change of venue
After finding out about the TV interview, Kemp momentarily lost her temper before standing, turning around and composing herself
She ultimately denied the defense attorney’s motion
Guyger’s defense attorney used the opportunity to once again raise her previous request for a change of venue, arguing the former officer could not possibly receive a fair trial in the county where virtually resident has prior knowledge of the case thanks to the local media.
The judge asked the 12 jurors and four alternate jurors individually if they had seen Creuzot’s interview. All of them confirmed they had not seen it or any media coverage on the case since they were selected.
When a prosecutor was addressing the court during the same hearing, an unidentified journalist’s laptop started blasting loud music.
‘OK. Hold a second. Wait a minute, hold on hold on. Why do you have a laptop in here?’ Kemp shouted.
Dallas County assistant district attorney Jason Hermus showed the bright red doormat that was outside Jean’s apartment. In comparison, he said Guyger did not have any doormat as he argued that she should have noticed it wasn’t her apartment
Allison Jean (right) the mother of Botham Jean and Botham’s brother Brandt Jean (left) arrive for the murder trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in Dallas on Monday
A crowd of Botham Jean’s family gathered outside the courtroom on Monday on the opening day of Guyger’s murder trial
‘I’m so sorry,’ the reporter replied.
‘No, I asked you why do you have a laptop in here? Are you an attorney?’ Kemp asked.
‘No ma’am,’ said the journalist.
‘Please give that laptop to the bailiff and you [bailiff] and you put it wherever you wish to put it. I’ve asked – I don’t know how [much] plainer I can make it.’
‘I’m so sorry,’ the journalist said. Seconds later, the laptop’s music started blasting again.
Amber Guyger, 31, shot dead 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean exactly a year ago after allegedly mistakenly entering his apartment thinking it was her own
Guyger told investigators she mistakenly entered the apartment of Jean, which was one floor above her own, when she returned home from work on the evening of September 6, 2018
Kemp told the bailiff the give her the laptop, which she snatched and took with her back into her chambers before emerging again some time later and giving everyone in the gallery a stern warning.
‘We’re not going to have this trial disrupted repeatedly by cell phones, laptops and computers going off,’ she said. ‘If your cell phone or laptop goes off or I see it, I am going to confiscate and keep it until this trial is concluded one way or another.’
After Kemp dismissed the jury for the day, she told the prosecution, including Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus to warn their boss, Creuzot, that the gag order issued on the court officials directly involved with Guyger’s trial applied to him as well.
Guyger is a former Dallas Police Officer on trial for murder after fatally shooting her unarmed black neighbor, Botham Jean, in his own apartment a year ago.
Guyger was off duty but still in uniform when she shot Jean in his home (above) on the evening of September 6, 2018
She told investigators she confused Jean’s unit with her own that night and mistook him for an intruder in her home before shooting him to death.
Guyger was only arrested 72 hours later and then charged with just manslaughter.
The case sparked anger across the country, particularly in the Dallas African-American community, which saw it as potentially another instance of a white police officer getting off lightly for killing a black man.
The Dallas Police Department led by Chief U. Renee Hall, who is black, took two weeks to fire Guyger despite charging her with manslaughter after Botham’s death.
Following the backlash and a grand jury investigation, Guyger was charged with first-degree murder. The charge is punishable under Texas law with up to life in prison.
Guyger was fired after she received criminal charges.
Jurors must decide whether Guyger is guilty of murder, manslaughter, something else or nothing at all in the shooting case. The trial resumes Tuesday morning.