DALLAS – A panel of three Texas appeals court judges appeared skeptical Tuesday of arguments to overturn the conviction of a former Dallas police officer who was sentenced to prison for fatally shooting her neighbor in his home.
An attorney for Amber Guyger clashed with a Dallas County prosecutor over whether the evidence was sufficient to prove that her 2018 shooting of Botham Jean was murder.
The hearing examined a Dallas County jury's 2019 decision to sentence Guyger to 10 years in prison for murder. It follows the recent conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, again focusing national attention on police killings and racial injustice.
Guyger, 32, did not appear in court Tuesday and the panel seemed to doubt the arguments presented by her lawyer. The judges will hand down a decision at an unspecified later date.
More than two years before Floyd's death set off protests across the country, Guyger's killing of Jean drew national attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of Black men by white police officers.
The basic facts of the case are not in dispute. Guyger, returning home from a long shift, mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was on the floor directly below his. Finding the door ajar, she entered and shot him, later testifying that she through he was a burglar.
Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, had been eating a bowl of ice cream before Guyger shot him. She was later fired from the Dallas Police Department.
Guyger's appeal hangs on the contention that her mistaking Jean's apartment for her own was reasonable and, therefore, so too was the shooting. Her lawyer has asked the appeals court to acquit her of murder or to substitute in a conviction for criminally negligent homicide, which carries a lesser sentence.