Botham Jean's Brother Criticized for Forgiving Amber Guyger Who Killed His Brother
On September 6, 2018, an off-duty Dallas police officer walked into Botham Jean's apartment and killed the 26-year-old man who lived one floor above her apartment. She mistakenly thought he was an intruder in her apartment. On October 1, 2019, Guyger was found guilty of murder after the jury deliberated only six hours. On October 2, 2019, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison after only one hour of jury deliberation.
Botham Jean's 18-year-old brother forgave Guyger and gave her a big hug in the courtroom. The hug lasted for about a minute in the middle of the courtroom.
There has been a lot of talk on social media about Brandt's Jean's display of forgiveness toward the 31-year-old ex-policewoman. Many people criticized him for doing so and added they couldn't have done it.
This article is not to criticize those who criticized Brandt Jean. It is written to report what happened and how different people felt about the display of forgiveness and hugs from Brandt and the judge.
The details of the case have been in the news for over one year and is not the purpose of this article. The purpose of this article is to focus on the reaction of the public after Brandt Jean said he forgave Guyger and asked the judge if he could hug her.
Judge Tammy Kemp not only allowed Brandt to hug Guyger, but she left her bench, walked across the floor and hugged Guyger as well. Then she gave Guyger a Bible saying she had more at home. They also prayed together.
Brandt Jean's Reaction to His Hug
Brandt and the family lawyer spoke on Good Morning America the morning after the infamous hug. Botham's younger brother was emotional as he explained that he hugged Guyger to set himself free. He indicated that he didn't want to live the rest of his life hating the woman who killed his brother.
The Jean family appeared on the talk show Dr. Phil on Friday. During the interview, Brandt said he thought the cameras were off when he asked permission to hug Guyger.
Botham Jean’s father, Bertram Jean, told CNN that he bears no hatred for Guyger and would like to become her friend.
Reactions From the Jean Family
Brandt Jean's older sister Allisa Charles-Findley said in a statement that she admires her youngest brother for hugging the former Dallas police officer who killed their brother. Charles-Findley also said that it's a weight lifted from Brandt because he forgave and hugged his brother's killer to free himself. She added that she prays every day to get to the point of forgiveness that Brandt already has. She stands behind her brother 100 percent.
Since Brandt's action was so unusual, she understands why some people disagree with the display of forgiveness and affection that came a year after their brother's death.
Jean's father Bertrum also stated that he forgave Guyger, but he wanted a sentence longer than 10 years. She could have gotten up to 28 years. He did not hug Guyger.
That's the way the Jean family felt after the trial and sentencing, but that's not the way people on social media reacted.
Reaction From Politicians
According to the Washington Post on October 3, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) praised Brandt Jean for a demonstration of “Christian love.” District Attorney John Creuzot called the teen’s address to Guyger an “amazing act of healing.”
Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador, called the teen’s hug an “amazing example of faith, love, and forgiveness.”
Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University and devout evangelical warns against allowing forgiveness to dull the urgency of injustice. She warns not to let admiration for Brandt Jean’s speech take away from the troubling questions raised by Botham Jean’s death.
Reactions on Social Media
The end of the trial sparked debates on social media and the remarks ran the gamut from it being a black thing to everything else. Most of the comments surrounded two major issues: the short sentence and the hugs in the courtroom.
The 10-Year Sentence
Some people thought the punishment doesn't fit the crime. One person called a 10-year sentence handed down by the 12-member jury a joke. Another commenter suggested Guyger should be locked up and the key thrown away.
Some people thought her sentence was not long enough. They were furious that she received only a 10-year sentence calling it just a "slap on the wrist." A person without a law degree suggested she should have gotten at least 30 years without the possibility of parole. With the 10-year sentence, Guyger is eligible for parole in just 5 years.
Some compared Guyger's sentence to some blacks who didn't kill anyone but they got harsher sentences. Many people argued that if the table had been turned and a black person had killed a white, he would have gotten the maximum sentence and no hugs. Some commenters said they are angry because of the courtroom foolishness.
There were a lot of comments that black people are often expected to forgive the perpetrators of violence against them, but it is not the other way around. Brandt was accused of having a slave mentality by offering forgiveness to the killer of his own brother.
Some people commented that Guyger didn't deserve forgiveness because she did not ask to be forgiven.
The courtroom hugs sparked a lot of attention. Some people were very critical of Judge Tammy Kemp. They thought she represented the epitome of incompetence and was out of order to hug Guyger and share scriptures from the Bible. They wondered how many black men and women she has hugged in her courtroom.
Even though it was God who commanded forgiveness, some church leaders have accused God of being displeased with Brandt and the judge's actions. They said because of Brandt's age and emotional state, he gets a pass for hugging Guyger, but the judge was out of line.
What Legal Experts Are Saying
Some legal experts call Judge Kemp's behavior inappropriate. Kenneth Williams, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, said he’d never seen anything like that in his 30 years of practicing law. He described it not only rare but also inappropriate.
According to Williams, it puts Judge Kemp in a bad position if there are further developments in the case, especially if Guyger appeals. Since Kemp
has displayed sympathy for the defendant, the case might have to go to another judge.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation has already filed a complaint against Judge Tammy Kemp with Texas’ State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The complaint states, “Compassion crossed the line into coercion when the judge gave Guyger a Bible and advised her on reading it."
An opposite opinion comes from the Texas-based First Liberty Institute, a legal nonprofit that promotes religious freedom. The organization tweeted that it “stands with Judge Tammy Kemp and will gladly defend her noble and legal actions.”