Good Morning Everybody.
As you all know, the trial of Amber Guyger, the Dallas Police Officer who shot and killed Botham Jean is fully underway. The trial itself has ended. Closing arguments were yesterday. And the jury has started their deliberations.
In case you did not know, Amber Guyger barged into Botham’s home, claiming she thought she was in her own apartment, then proceeded to shoot and kill him as he sat on the couch, in his pajamas, eating ice cream. He had no idea who she was or what she was doing.
I spent Sunday in Dallas with Botham’s family as we celebrated what would’ve been his 28th birthday. Botham was a star. He was a star in his own family. He was a star in college. He was a star in his church. And he was a star on his job. Everywhere he went, he was a magnet for good people and good will. Over and over again we heard from people who said he was the nicest, most gregarious, good-hearted man they knew.
Many of our listeners may not know this, but Botham’s mother used to work for the Prime Minister of St. Lucia and was an executive in their national government. And the former prime minister was with us on Sunday and he expressed his grief that his country had sent one of their best sons to the United States only for him to be shot and killed in the prime of his youth.
We learned that Botham dreamed of one day returning to St. Lucia and even becoming Prime Minister himself one day. I want us to think about that for a moment. How many presidents, how many prime ministers, how many CEOs, how many civil rights leaders, how many husbands and fathers, how many doctors and lawyers have we lost in this country to gun violence and police brutality.
I think we’re going to get a verdict today in the trial. And for a few minutes I’d like to break it down.
The prosecution did an amazing job. First, rarely do police ever even go to trial, but when they do, prosecutors normally phone it in, and halfheartedly lead the trial, making it clear that they had no real interest in getting a conviction.
None of us felt that way in this trial. They pushed hard. They were thorough and smart. And Amber Guyger’s defense hardly put up a fight. They don’t have anything. She did it. She shot and killed a man in his own home. She refused to provide him any first aid and instead started texting her lover for advice.
On Sunday evening, when I spoke with Botham’s parents and their attorneys, we all felt great about the case. It was open and shut, and the prosecution just nailed it. When I spoke to attorney Lee Merritt yesterday we said that if the trial had 92 battles, the prosecution won all 92 of them. It was 92-0. But yesterday something horrible happened that I never saw coming. I’m not sure if the prosecution saw it coming, but the judge gave the jury the worst possible set of instructions we ever could’ve imagined.
She said that Amber Guyger was to be protected by the Texas version of the Stand Your Ground law. I could hardly believe it. It’s called the Castle Doctrine.
That word, castle, stands for your home. The law states that if someone intrudes into your space, your home, or your car, that you have the right to use lethal force to protect yourself.
But how in the hell are they claiming Castle Doctrine when this woman walked right into a Black man’s home and shot and killed him in his living room.
This can’t stand. I’ll be honest with you – unless the judge changes these instructions, or gives them a different interpretation, the jury is in a very bad spot. I spent the night searching case law and could not find another example of someone being allowed to “stand their ground” in someone else’s home. It’s absurd.
If this stands, I will immediately advise the family and their attorneys to appeal this ruling up to the district court and the Supreme Court if necessary.
What it tells me is this – America’s gun laws were written for one reason, and one reason alone, to protect white people and white power. They damn sure weren’t written to protect Philando Castile or Botham Jean or Marissa Alexander.
Of course I’m following this case closely, and am hoping and praying for the best. I thought we had this one, and we still might, but I’m worried that ruling yesterday killed the case.
I’ll close with this thought. The laws are bad. We’re losing cases because we’re fighting against bad laws – and we must figure out how to fight to change them.