WASHINGTON (AFP) – A former Texas policewoman was convicted of murder on Tuesday (Oct 1) for shooting a neighbour in his own home last year in what her lawyer claimed was a “tragic mistake.”
The case sparked outrage, becoming a flashpoint on police violence and racial bias as Amber Guyger was white, while her victim, Botham Jean, was black.
Guyger, who worked in Dallas, claimed after the Sept 6, 2018 shooting that she mistakenly believed she had returned to her own apartment and that the 26-year-old Jean was an intruder.
In fact, the 31-year-old – a police officer for four years until her sacking following the shooting – had entered Jean’s unlocked apartment located in the same building but one floor above her own home.
“We the jury unanimously find the defendant, Amber Guyger, guilty of murder as charged in the indictment,” the jury foreman announced in images shown on cable news.
Guyger, who was off-duty after working a nearly 14-hour shift, lived in apartment 1378 on the third floor, while Jean lived in apartment 1478 directly above her on the fourth.
“She knows she’s made a tragic mistake, but it’s not out of evil,” Guyger’s lawyer, Robert Rogers, told the court as the trial opened Monday, describing it as “human error” and an act of “self-defence.”
Prosecutor Jason Hermus countered that Jean, a native of the Caribbean island of St Lucia who worked for an accounting firm, “paid the ultimate price” for her errors.
“She walks past 16 different apartments and fails to register the number four on any one of them,” Hermus said.
During the trial the jury was played Guyer’s emergency call and bodycam footage from responding officers.
Jurors were given the option of finding Guyger guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter. But a grand jury indicted her on the more serious charge of murder following public protests in Dallas.
She faces a sentence of up to life in prison.
Several members of Jean’s family broke out sobbing and embraced as the verdict was read out, according to US media reports.
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