Judge Tammy Kemp, who hugged Amber Guyger and gave her a Bible after the conclusion of Guyger's murder trial, is coming under scrutiny over whether she crossed an ethical line.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation on Thursday filed a complaint against Kemp with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the agency that investigates allegations of judicial misconduct.
The Wisconsin-based group said Kemp went too far after Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Guyger was convicted of fatally shooting her unarmed neighbor, Botham Jean, in his apartment she claims she mistook for her own.
The FFRF says Judge Kemp's actions were inappropriate and unconstitutional.
Judge Kemp consoled the Jean family after an emotional victim impact statement by Brandt Jean.
Then she spoke with Amber Guyger. Judge Kemp exited the courtroom and returned with a personal bible. She turned to John 3:16 and told Guyger, "This is where you start." She continued, saying, "He has a purpose for you."
In the complaint, the FFRF said Judge Kemp, "Handled a difficult trial with grace" but that she "signaled to everyone watching...that she is partial to christian reform and christian notions of forgiveness."
The latest news from around North Texas.
"I did not see why the judge did what she did," said C. Victor Lander, a former municipal judge who spent 27 years behind the bench.
Lander says what some see as an act of compassion also undermines her credibility as an impartial judge.
"Once there's an appearance that the judges are not impartial, we lose our entire criminal justice system," Lander said.
Some are coming to Judge Kemp's defense.
The First Liberty Institute issued the following statement in response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's complaint.
“FFRF is protesting Judge Kemp rather than joining the rest of the nation celebrating the compassion and mercy Judge Kemp demonstrated. We should all be thankful the law allows Judge Kemp’s actions and we stand with her and will gladly lead the charge in defending her noble and legal actions.”
"What this judge has done and what Brandt Jean has done together, I think, has brought more hope and healing to this community than a life sentence ever could have," said Jeremy Dys, attorney for Plano-based First Liberty Institute.
Kemp has also been criticized by activists who wondered whether a black defendant would get the same treatment.
Kemp didn't return requests for comment.
Her former boss, ex-Dallas prosecutor Craig Watkins, said Kemp is guided by faith and that he didn't think her actions were out of bounds.