A witness who was gunned down just days after testifying in Amber Guyger’s murder trial had been so concerned for his safety he had fled the state in an attempt to avoid testifying, according to a lawyer helping his family.
Joshua Brown was shot multiple times and killed Friday outside his Dallas apartment just 10 days after he testified for the prosecution in Guyger’s trial, telling jurors what he heard outside his neighbor Botham Jean’s apartment just before Guyger shot the accountant to death.
But Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Jean’s family who is now also helping Brown’s family, said Brown had been a reluctant witness and had even fled the state to try to avoid testifying after deciding it “was just too dangerous.”
Brown had gone to California — and was even in the state the first day of the trial when he was initially scheduled to testify — but was “hounded” by prosecutors who threatened to issue an arrest warrant if he failed to show up in court the following day, Merritt said in a Facebook post.
“So he got on a plane and came straight from the airport to the courthouse,” Merritt explained.
Merritt believes Brown met with the judge before testifying to relay his concerns about testifying in the highly publicized trial, but he was ordered to take the stand.
“The court has mechanisms to limit the exposure of witnesses,” Merritt wrote. “They took steps to cut off cameras and instruct media not to report on an undercover cop that testified in Guyger’s trial. Why weren’t the same measures taken to protect Joshua Brown?”
Fueling Brown's fears was the fact that just a few months after Jean was killed, Brown had witnessed another murder in November 2018 outside a strip club.
Kendall Morris is facing charges of murder and aggravated assault in Diggs’ death.
His attorney, Henry Campbell, told CNN Morris had pleaded not guilty and is currently out on bond.
He said his client had “nothing to do with what happened to Josh” and maintained Morris’ innocence in the strip club shooting.
But Merritt said Brown believed he was the intended target of the shooting and maintained a low profile after the shooting, especially because one of the two suspects remained “at-large” and was never apprehended.
“Josh was concerned that these people still meant him harm so when he was subpoenaed to testify against Amber Guyger he was conflicted,” Merritt wrote in the post. “He wanted to do the right thing.”
However, eventually, he decided the risks were too great and fled to California.
“He didn’t want any part of this trial,” Merritt told The New York Times. “He was intimidated by the idea of being out there in the public. And unfortunately, in the black community, cooperating with the state — even in the prosecution of a white police officer — is frowned upon.”
Brown would take the stand on the second day of the trial to describe what he heard outside Jean’s door as he was coming home to his own apartment.
Brown testified that he heard what sounded like two people meeting by “surprise” and then the sound of gunshots. He told jurors he never heard Guyger, an off-duty Dallas police officer, give any commands such as “show me your hands” before the fatal shots were fired as she had claimed.
Brown also reported seeing the former cop “crying” and explaining that she came into the wrong apartment after the shooting.
Guyger was convicted of murder and sentenced last week to 10 years in prison for Jean’s death.
While the testimony was powerful because it refuted Guyger’s claim that she had shouted, “Let me see your hands!” before firing the fatal shots, Merritt contends he didn’t provide any evidence that couldn’t have been provided by other witnesses.
“Brown’s testimony was powerful bit it was also duplicative,” he wrote. “Nothing he testified to couldn’t have been brought in by other witnesses. It wasn’t worth his life.”
Brown was shot to death Friday night outside his Dallas apartment. He had moved from the apartment complex he shared with Guyger and Jean.
His death led many to suspect it may have to do with his role in the trial; however, police said Tuesday they believe he was killed in a drug deal. They say there are three suspects — one in custody and two at large, the New York Times reports.
However, the timing of the shooting has raised speculation.
Merritt has called for an independent investigation of the killing, although he said it “doesn’t mean there’s evidence” to suggest that his death is necessarily connected to the trial.
“This case must be resolved, and that investigation that leads to finding the person must be seen as trustworthy or transparent by the community,” he said on “Anderson Cooper Full Circle.”
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has also called for an independent or federal investigation into the murder.
“It’s critical to public confidence in the administration of justice that witnesses who speak out against police violence are fully protected,” Sherrilyn Ifill, the organization’s president, said in a statement. “The suspicious circumstances of Mr. Brown’s killing should cause great alarm and demand an immediate and piercing inquiry.”
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a tweet that he is confident the Dallas Police will conduct a thorough investigation.
“Until we know more about this incident, I encourage everyone to refrain from speculation,” he said.
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