Posted On 23 Sep 2019
Texas prosecutors Monday made their case that former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger’s cellphone records, web searches and text messages on the night she fatally shot her neighbor should be admissible during her murder trial.
Jason Hermus, the lead prosecutor for Dallas County, argued ahead of opening statements that such evidence goes “to show her state of mind,” and that she was not paying attention when she arrived at her apartment complex Sept. 6, 2018, got off on the wrong floor of the parking deck and then mistakenly entered the home of Botham Jean, 26, whom she said she mistook for a burglar.
Hermus also revealed that the texts show that Guyger, 31, had been having a sexual relationship with Martin Rivera, her partner on the Dallas police force, and that she was on the phone with him as she drove into the parking garage and just prior to shooting Jean.
In addition, prosecutors said, Guyger sent Rivera a sexually suggestive Snapchat message during the night of the shooting that said, “Wanna touch?” and that they had plans to meet up later.
Guyger’s defense team told state District Judge Tammy Kemp that the text messages and other information from her phone don’t speak to her mindset, and have maintained that she was still fatigued from work.
Kemp ruled the jury can hear about the text messages at trial, which opened Monday with the jury being seated and both sides making opening statements.
Legal experts previously told NBC News the prosecution will likely focus at trial on Guyger’s mental state on the night of the shooting and that she had the ability to prevent the deadly chain of events.
Her defense team, meanwhile, could argue that Jean’s death was a mistake with no criminal intent behind it.
A “mistake of fact” defense is enshrined under Texas law and will hinge on convincing the jury that Guyger made a reasonable error when she believed she was killing an intruder in her own home and exercising her right of self-defense.
The case against Guyger, who was fired from the Dallas Police Department in the weeks after the shooting, has become one of the most anticipated murder trials in the city in decades. The shooting involving Jean, an accountant originally from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, has reignited conversations about racial bias, police use of force and concerns that law-abiding citizens are not safe even in their own homes.
Guyger is white and Jean was black. She was off duty but in uniform when she entered his apartment and fired her service weapon twice. She later told investigators that she had confused his apartment for hers and believed he was an intruder when she saw a “large silhouette” in the darkness.
Guyger said she tried to use her electronic key fob to open the door, but that it pushed open.
A gag order has been in place among the attorneys since January, so the trial is expected to illuminate long unanswered questions about what Guyger was doing before she returned home, how long she had been working and how she could not have realized she was at the wrong apartment.
Jean’s unit had a red floor mat outside the front door, while Guyger’s did not, prosecutors said.
Guyger faces a maximum of life in prison if found guilty of murder.
During the pretrial motions, Kemp said she would keep the jury sequestered for the duration of the trial. She also chastised someone in the courtroom who had defied her earlier instructions against the use of electronic devices.
“Our goal and objective here is a fair and impartial trial,” she said.