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Jury Finds Ex-Dallas Officer Guilty Of Murder In Death Of Neighbor

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of murdering Botham Jean in his apartment. Guyger testified she had mistaken her upstairs neighbor's apartment as her own and shot him, thinking he was an intruder. The jury's verdict here means Guyger faces a sentence of up to 99 years in prison.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports from Dallas.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: After six days of testimony, the news that the jury had reached its verdict struck like a thunderbolt - it'd taken them just five hours - Amber Guyger was guilty of murder.

As Judge Tammy Kemp read the verdict, one woman yelped and another clapped once, but the judge immediately put a stop to the outburst. Guyger looked shocked, while Botham Jean's mother, Allison, raised her hands in praise and said to the heavens, God is good.

Outside the Dallas courthouse, Jean's family's lawyers and supporters rejoiced. For them, the jury's findings were sweet righteousness in a racially unjust world.

Ben Crump represents the Jean family.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BENJAMIN CRUMP: This verdict is for Trayvon Martin. It's for Michael Brown. It's for Sandra Bland. It's for Tamir Rice. It's for Eric Garner - for so many unarmed black and brown human beings all across America. This verdict today is for them. Everybody can raise their hand.

GOODWYN: After breaking for lunch, the sentencing phase of the trial began. Finally, it was Botham Jean's mother's turn to take the stand and tell the story of a young man called Bo.

She told the court that from an early age, he was a star - good looking, a math whiz, with a voice so fine he was the leader of the church choir. Outgoing and charismatic, people were drawn to Jean, and he returned the love he got with gusto. Allison Jean shared a favorite memory.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALLISON JEAN: Botham once surprised me for Mother's Day. I didn't know he was coming. I was sleeping that Sunday afternoon, and I heard his voice. He used to call me GG. That was short for governor general. He said I was his governor general. And I was sleeping and I heard, GG. And I'm like, but that's Botham's voice, but maybe I'm dreaming. So I close my eyes again, and he just came and laid down on me on the bed. He flew all the way from Arkansas at the time, and he came to St. Lucia to surprise me.

GOODWYN: For the city of Dallas' African American community, the verdict was a relief. Reverend Frederick Haynes III is the pastor of the megachurch Friendship-West Baptist and the leader of the city's black community. Haynes believes the fact that the jury was composed predominantly of people of color played a role in the verdict.

FREDERICK HAYNES III: We all see from where we stand. And so you're talking about a jury made up of people who saw from where we historically have stood as a people in this country. And I think that that weighed heavily on the verdict that was rendered.

GOODWYN: The sentencing phase continues today. Soon, the jury will weigh the fate of Amber Guyger. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

(SOUNDBITE OF TAYLOR MCFERRIN'S "POSTPARTUM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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