Dallas County

Jury Selected for Guyger Trial

A jury has been selected in the murder trial of Amber Guyger in Dallas County.

Guyger, a now-former Dallas Police officer, shot and killed 26-year-old Botham Jean in his own apartment last year. Guyger said she went to the wrong apartment thinking it was her own and mistook Jean for an intruder.

Friday, the potential jury pool was cut down to 220 people by noon. Prosecutors and Guyger's defense team were both allowed two hours to interact with jurors. Twelve jurors and four alternates were selected around 9 p.m. Friday. 

A pool of close to 400 jurors was reduced to 220 as Amber Guyger's attorneys, the prosecution and Judge Tammy Kemp questioned potential jurors during the second day of jury selection.

Judge Tammy Kemp told the jury pool she would call them personally to notify them if they are selected.

Judge Kemp told potential jurors that "being a juror is hard work" and "it's not like on TV." Prosecutors went first, asking a series of questions and explaining the process and their broad position to potential jurors. All sides instructed potential jurors to be honest and speak up, along the way many did. 

Guyger's defense team started their two hour period with the jury at 4pm Friday. 

The demographics of the jury will be closely watched. The circumstances of the shooting sparked outrage and critics, including Jean's family, have questioned why Guyger was not taken into custody immediately after the shooting and whether race played a factor in her decision to use deadly force. 

Assistant District Attorney Jason Fine's questions Friday and the range of responses from the potential jurors showcased the varied issues at play.

When asked whether Guyger's work would "change the burden of proof" she needed, a white woman said, "I do believe that a police officer should be held to a higher standard."

Several other people, mostly men, said they'd be unable to convict Guyger because she'd been a Dallas officer when she shot Jean.

Only about a dozen of the 220 potential jurors raised their hands when Fine asked who had heard "nothing" about the case.

"I've already formed an opinion, so it would take more evidence," a Hispanic man with a beard told the prosecutor. He did not say what his opinion was.

A white man with glasses said his feeling that "we have a huge gun control problem" would affect his ability to judge the case.

Kemp urged the pool to "set aside any preconceived notions" of what happened when Guyger shot Jean because they might be "far afield."

Prosecutors had not finished their questions when the proceedings broke for lunch, but Kemp was firm that jurors would be selected Friday.

The Guyger defense team has filed for a change of venue; arguing that the jury pool in Dallas County has been poisoned and a fair and impartial jury cannot be found in Dallas County.

The Guyger defense team seeks to have the trial moved to one of six nearby counties: Collin, Grayson. Kaufman, Ellis, Rockwall or Fannin.

Even with a jury selected, Judge Kemp said she couldn't say definitively the trial would remain in Dallas County. A ruling could come next week.

"The jury makeup may be different," litigation psychologist Dr. Mary Noffsinger Phd with Courtroom Sciences said. "People in those counties; especially in Ellis, Kaufman and Grayson counties tend to be more rural, more conservative and less racially diverse."

Noffsinger notes that the six counties are not far from Dallas County in geography so possible jurors may still know much of the same information but still not have formed an opinion about the case or the facts.

"Typically, a change of venue motion is supported by science," Noffsinger added. "Should be able to show that the surrogate venue is similar to the county in which the case was filed, so I expected that the possible counties on the list would look and feel more like Dallas County, but they don't."

Jean graduated in 2016 from Harding University in Arkansas, where he often led campus religious services as a student. He had worked for accounting firm PwC since graduating.

After shooting Jean, Guyger can be heard in a recording of a 911 apologizing to him. She tells a 911 dispatcher nearly 20 times that she thought she thought she was in her own apartment as she waited for emergency responders to arrive.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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