An extraordinary act of forgiveness brought Botham Jean’s brother and and his killer together in a powerful courtroom embrace.
During Amber Guyger's sentencing hearing, Jean’s younger brother, 18-year-old Brandt Jean, told the former Dallas police officer who shot Jean to death after mistakenly entering his apartment thinking it was her own—that he forgave her.
"If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you," he said, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Guyger was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for Jean’s murder—a sentence that fell short of the 28-year sentence prosecutors had advocated for after her murder conviction. Other members of Jean’s family had taken the witness stand to convey the devastation the death had caused to their family, but Brandt Jean had another message—one of forgiveness.
After telling the courtroom that he spoke only for himself and that his family didn’t even know what he planned to say, he told Guyger that he didn’t believe she should do any jail time.
“I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you because I know that’s exactly what Botham would do,” he said, according to The New York Post.
Brandt went on to say that the best thing the disgraced cop could do would be to give her life to Christ.
"I love you as a person, and I don't wish anything bad on you,” he said.
Then, in a stunning move, he asked State District Judge Tammy Kemp if he could give his brother’s killer a hug.
“I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please? Please?” he asked.
After the judge agreed, Guyger leapt from the defense table and fully embraced Brandt in a hug that lasted more than a minute—as sobs could be heard throughout the courtroom.
When they separated, both were in tears.
Brandt then walked out of the courtroom, after getting a thumbs up sign from his father, the local paper reports.
Judge Tammy Kemp also left, but returned a short time later with her own personal Bible. She gave the book to Guyger and made reference to the passage John 3:16.
“You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith,” Kemp said, according to local station WFAA. “You start with this.”
Kemp and Guyger then hugged and Guyger whispered something into the judge’s ear.
“You haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven,” the judge told her. “You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”
Guyger was then led away to begin her prison sentence—but the judge’s actions have sparked criticism from some who viewed the move as overstepping her role.
The Atlantic columnist Jemele Hill called it “unacceptable” in a tweet just after the trial concluded.
“How Botham Jean’s brother chooses to grieve is his business. He’s entitled to that. But this judge choosing to hug this woman is unacceptable,” she wrote. “Keep in mind this convicted murderer is the same one who laughed about Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, and killing ppl on sight.”
Hill was referencing several texts and pins on Pinterest that prosecutors had showed the jury during the sentencing phase.
In one text exchange, Guyger and a coworker complained about the length of a parade commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. in 2018.
“When does this end lol,” the coworker said, according to WFAA.
“When MLK is dead…oh wait…” Guyger responded.
Prosecutors also displayed several pins Guyger had saved on Pinterest. In one post of a Minion character from “Despicable Me” it read “No one ever thanks me for having the patience not to kill them.”
In a comment under the post, Guyger had written, “People are so ungrateful.”
The former cop will now spend 10 years behind bars for shooting the 26-year-old Jean twice in the chest in his own apartment. She told the jury she had believed she was entering her own apartment and thought he was an intruder.
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