Amber Guyger, a now former Dallas police officer, has been convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison. 10 years, when prosecutors had asked for a 28 year sentence, which would have been equal to the age her victim would have been today if he were still alive.
Botham Jean was a 26-year-old accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers at the time, and lived one floor above Guyger in the same building. Guyger reports to have returned home from a long day of work, still in her police uniform, and mistakenly entered Jean’s apartment. Jean was reportedly eating ice cream and watching television at the time, and was unarmed. When Guyger entered the wrong apartment, she ‘mistook’ him for an intruder, and shot to kill. Jean died at the hospital.
There were several clues that should have alerted Guyger that the apartment was not hers, notably the bright red doormat that didn’t match the one she had in front of her own apartment. Further, she claims that the door was ajar when she approached. If the door was ajar, why enter without announcing yourself, especially as a police officer in uniform though off-duty?
It’s notable that the jury handed down the sentence, not the judge, who hugged Guyger after her sentence. How many judges hug murderers?
Guyger will be eligible for parole in just 5 years.
Castle Doctrine & Mistake of Fact
Interestingly, the Judge on this trial allowed both the castle doctrine and mistake of fact to be considered by the jury.
Castle Doctrine says that you have the right to protect your castle. It’s the polar opposite of laws the require people to retreat before mounting self defense efforts, “Run Hide Fight.” The Castle Doctrine allows homeowners or property owners to basically shoot first and ask questions later, so long as you believe to be in imminent danger while on your own property.
According to Schulte and Fort Worth law firm Barnett Howard & Williams, a person can claim self-defense if:
- They believed someone was on their property illegally.
- They reasonably believed the deadly force was immediately necessary.
- They did not provoke the person against which the deadly force was used.
- They weren’t engaged in criminal activity (other than a minor traffic offense) at the time the deadly force was used.
Amber Guyger was not in her own apartment, she was in Botham Jean’s. Why would the judge allow this defense? Because of a mistake of fact, meaning – Amber thought she was in her own apartment, and thought that was a fact, which meant she thought she could exercise her rights under the Castle Doctrine.
If Guyger has a reasonable belief that she was in her own apartment then the doctrine applies, Schulte said. The state has to disprove that she thought she was in her apartment, he said.
Apparently, the State did its job in disproving her mistake of fact. Good. 5 years in prison with 5 on parole is not long enough for murder, though.