Amber Guyger's Attorneys Argue for Change of Venue Due to ‘Poisoned' Dallas County Jury Pool

Attorneys say pretrial publicity, comments from officials have made it impossible to try the case in Dallas County

Attorneys representing Amber Guyger, the former Dallas police officer accused of murder after she fatally shot a man in his apartment which she believed was her own, is asking for a change of venue saying she cannot receive a fair and impartial trial in Dallas County.

Guyger, 30, is accused of fatally shooting Botham Jean inside his own apartment on Sept. 6, 2018. She was charged with manslaughter three days later, before a grand jury heard evidence and opted to instead indict her on a murder charge. Guyger claimed she mistook his apartment for her's (she lived in the same complex, though on a different floor) and thought he was an intruder. He was unarmed.

Guyger's team of attorneys, Toby Shook, Robert Rogers and Michael Mowla, said Monday the Dallas County jury pool has been "poisoned" by pretrial publicity and a "false narrative" that race motivated the shooting. The defense team asked that the trial be moved to another court in the same judicial district in which Dallas County is located, specifically to one of the following counties: Collin, Grayson, Kaufman, Ellis, Rockwall or Fannin.

It is not clear if the trial will be moved or, if approved, which court will hear the case. If the request is denied, and if Guyger is convicted, it's possible her attorneys could then base an appeal off their belief that she couldn't receive a fair trial in Dallas County.

As proof of their claim, Guyger's attorneys presented 297 news articles Monday as a sampling of the reporting done since Jean was fatally shot Sept. 6, 2018.

"Since this date, there has been pervasive, prejudicial, and inflammatory media-coverage in the community, replete with falsehoods and speculation," the attorneys argued. "This coverage has ranged from the absurd ... to the outrageous."

The attorneys added that, "obtaining a verdict based solely on the evidence developed at trial impossible in Dallas County."

The document does mention, however, that, "widespread publicity alone is not inherently prejudicial" and that "news stories that are accurate and objective are generally not considered to be prejudicial or inflammatory."

Guyger's team also said the coverage was spearheaded by former Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson, who, they allege, violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Johnson was running for re-election that November and Guyger's legal team said she was a "trial official" in the case and that she appeared in public "many times" and "appeared with other public officials and Mr. Jean's family" -- a conflict of interest and, they allege, a violation of the Sixth Amendment.

Guyger's legal team also said comments from several local elected officials and then-candidate for U.S. Senate Beto O'Rourke also contributed to the negative portrayal of their client.

They specifically mentioned a tweet by then-Dallas City Counciman Scott Griggs who tweeted "that Jean 'was killed under very suspicious circumstances. The DPD Officer should have already been arrested.'"

Because of the continuing extensive coverage of the case, Judge Tammy Kemp issued a gag order on Jan. 8, noting that, "as a result of statements made to, and published by, the press a serious and imminent threat to the constitutional right of the defendant herein to a fair trial exists."

In June, Kemp admonished some members of the local media for sharing sensitive information, Guyger's 911 call, in a television report while the case is under a gag order.

The trial was to begin Aug. 12, but in April Kemp approved a request from Guyger's attorneys that delayed the proceedings until Sept. 23 due to a scheduling conflict.

NBC 5's Maria Guerrero and Chris Blake contributed to this report.

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