A Dallas Morning News Editorial has sounded a word of caution to the county’s incoming district attorney, John Creuzot, that in going for a murder charge in the Botham Jean case he takes a greater risk of a jury returning a not guilty verdict.
The newspaper however expressed the view that Creuzot has very good legal reasons for asserting that Amber Guyger , the female police officer who shot Jean, should be charged with murder and not manslaughter.
Nevertheless, the editorial said that convicting on a murder charge, with its stiffer sentence, will be a tougher case to win, especially when a police officer is involved and especially when there are so many questions surrounding the circumstances of the shooting.
“That would compound this horrific tragedy: 26-year-old Botham Jean was shot and killed in his apartment when Guyger — returning from a long cop shift — apparently mistook him for an intruder in her own apartment and opened fire. Guyger’s apartment was one floor below Jean’s. There is no question Jean and his family deserve justice,” the newspaper editorial stated.
“Prosecutors will present a charge to jurors who can vote on whether to indict Guyger, which would allow the case to go to trial. Creuzot, a Democrat who beat incumbent Republican Faith Johnson, will be in charge of overseeing the case,” the paper observed.
It noted that Creuzot says the appropriate charge is murder because Guyger intended to shoot Jean.
“Manslaughter calls for a determination of recklessness. But as we know, juries weigh and interpret a lot of factors in deciding these cases. A big one in this case is that Guyger says she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own.”
According to the publication’s editorial, any good defense attorney could use that to try to convince a jury that Guyger thought she was defending her property and acted in self-defense.
“We’ve seen far too many of these police-involved shootings of black citizens end without police officers being held accountable for their actions. Murder indictments are rare, convictions and tough sentences even more so,” the newspaper declared.
The editorial expressed concern that that Creuzot acknowledges that he’s made his assessment without yet seeing any police or forensic reports in the Botham Jean case.
“It’s unusual and risks inserting politics into this case for an incoming DA to issue such a call before assuming office,” the Dallas paper said.
“As we’ve said before, time and evidence will tell whether the manslaughter charge is the right one. We urge Creuzot to carefully consider a great deal of both. The outcome of this case is too important for Jean’s family — and Dallas — to heal and move forward,” it stated.