Dallas Police Officer Murder Case Takes New Twist As Visiting Judge Bob Brotherton Recuses Original Judge
Judge Bob Brotherton
Judge Brotherton Removes Judge Kemp From Amber Guyger Murder Case
Although former Dallas police officer Amber Guyer has been convicted of murder in the shooting death of a neighbor, the legal proceedings surrounding the high profile case continued recently, according to a report on Dallas Fox News Affiliate Fox 4. Shaun Raub of Fox News reported that Wichita Falls Judge Bob Brotherton ordered State District Judge Tammy Kemp removed from presiding over the contempt of court case she initiated against Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot. Brotherton recently retired as District Judge of the 30th District Court in Wichita Falls, Texas, was assigned the hearing revolving around the contempt proceedings which arose during the Guyger jury trial.
Judge Kemp Held District Attorney In Contempt
It was revealed during the Fox News report of the dramatic murder trial that Judge Kemp held Creuzot in contempt. The basis of the contempt action was a claim that the district attorney violated the judge's gag order concerning the case which rocked the Metroplex. Creuzot allegedly agreed to an interview days before the trial and answered questions concerning the trial.
Guyger Charged With Killing Neighbor
The Amber Guyger murder case has been unique from the beginning, according to the New York Times. Guyger was an off-duty police officer in Dallas when she came home from work one night. She said she believed she found a trespasser inside her apartment and shot him..
Tragically, the man she shot was her neighbor Botham Shem Jean, a 26-year old accountant, who was watching television in the apartment he rented directly above Ms. Guyger's. The officer had mistakenly entered the wrong apartment.
Jury Convicted Police Officer Of Murder
The Dallas jury convicted Guyger of murder in October of 2019. She was then sentenced to 10 years in the Texas prison system. Protesters shouted "no justice, no peace" in the courthouse hallways following the sentencing. In contrast to the anger displayed by the protesters, Jean's brother took the stand and offered the officer forgiveness for shooting his brother.
Jury Compromises During Sentencing
The jury deliberated for about an hour and a half before deciding upon a sentence that was less than the maximum of 99 years in prison, but also more than the minimum of two years. Prosecutors had asked for at least 28 years. This number was based on the age Mr. Jean would be during the trial had he survived the shooting, according to the Dallas Morning News newspaper.
Contempt Issue Arises About Fox News Interview
The contempt issue arose when Judge Kemp discovered Creuzot allegedly made comments about the trial before it started. The presiding judge allegedly said, "Our elected DA did an interview about this trial?"
That response was part of the argument Creuzot's attorneys made why Kemp shouldn't preside over the case, according to the local Fox News affiliate in Dallas.
Attorney Brian Wice said, "When the business of judging become personal, the judge needs to walk away. In all the wisdom that I've learned...I'm a former sportswriter and legal analyst. I learned more from having been a sportswriter and having done TV than those dusty law books."
Judge Kemp reportedly viewed a tape of the Fox News interview before the trial and then denied a defense motion for a mistrial since none of the jurors said they had seen it.
The interview aired Sept. 22, the night before the jury trial was to begin. Judge Kemp said in an order she signed that the interview was in "direct violation" of a gag order that prevented prosecutors and the defense from speaking publicly about the Guyger case.
In his interview, Creuzot said he thought Guyger was correctly charged with murder, rather than the manslaughter charge she had been arrested on, for fatally shooting Botham Jean in his apartment.
Creuzot Attorneys Argue Gag Order Unconstitutional
The district attorney's lawyers further said the gag order was unconstitutional. They also argued he didn't violate the order.
Jason Hermus, the lead prosecutor in the trial, FaceTimed his testimony from Canada, where he is visiting family.
"She had told me to stop defending my boss." He also referred to a meeting in judge's chambers after she learned of Creuzot's comments, saying she referenced the DA's policy on not arresting some low-level offenders.
Attorney Toby Shook Testifies
Guyger's co-counsel Toby Shook, was subpoenaed. When asked if he thought Judge Kemp believed Creuzot purposely violated the gag order, he replied, "I believe that was her intent. I don't believe she thought it was inadvertant."
Judge Brotherton removed Judge Kemp from the case and threw out her gag order barring the DA's Office from representing Creuzot.
The contempt of court case against the DA will proceed as planned with a different judge.
Judge Brotherton Rules Different DA Office Will Prosecute Contempt
Judge Brotherton also ruled at Friday's hearing that another DA's office from one of the counties surrounding Dallas will take over the prosecution of the contempt of court case against Creuzot. The district attorney was present at the hearing, but did not comment. His attorney, Brian Wice, praised Brotherton's decision, according to WFAA-TV of Dallas.
Judge Brotherton Makes Ruling Following Testimony
Brotherton, who had a distinguished judicial career in Wichita Falls, heard evidence for about thirty minutes before making his ruling. He ruled on two issues. First, he ruled the order forbidding the DA's Office from defending Creuzot in this matter should not stand. Second, he ruled Judge Kemp should not preside over the contempt case.
Judge Brotherton Experienced At Handling High Profile Cases
Judge Brotherton was uniquely qualified to handle the contempt hearing Friday. He served almost 30 years as district judge in Wichita Falls where he heard many high profile cases. He once said the Faryion Wardrip capital murder trial is one he frequently thinks about. Although Wardrip was convicted and received the death sentence in 1999, his case is still on appeal in the federal system. Wardrip confessed to murdering several girls in the Wichita Falls area as well as one in Fort Worth.
Brotherton graduated from the University of North Texas with a B.B.S degree and from the University of Texas Law School in 1979.
Judge Brotherton worked as a prosecutor in the Wichita County District Attorney's Office prior to entering private practice with Dan Tompkins. He was appointed as District Judge when Judge Calvin Ashley retired in 1989.
Judge Brotherton Previously Ruled On Craig Watkins Contempt Motion
Judge Brotherton also presided over the contempt hearing for a previous elected Dallas County District Attorney. In that case, former DA Craig Watkins was held in contempt March 2013 by then judge Lena Levario when he refused to testify at a hearing examing allegations of misconduct against them. Brotherton acquitted Watkins of contempt because he ruled Levario should not have held the hearing.
Kemp now presides over the same courtroom Levario did when the latter held Watkins in contempt. Kemp defeated Levario in the Democraatic primary in 2014.