Judge Warns Media About Publishing Evidence in Botham Jean Case

Jury selection, trial date set in Amber Guyger, Botham Jean case

The judge overseeing the murder trial for former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger admonished some members of the local media Thursday for sharing sensitive information last month while the case is under a gag order.

State District Judge Tammy Kemp began the hearing by asking attorneys for both the prosecution and defense if they'd figured out who violated her gag order and leaked Guyger's 911 call to a local television station.

Guyger is accused of fatally shooting her neighbor, 26-year-old Botham Jean, in his own home on Sept. 6, 2018. Guyger said she shot Jean after returning home and mistaking him for an intruder -- she said it wasn't until after she shot him, while calling 911, that she realized she was on the wrong floor and that she wasn't at her apartment.

Representatives for the prosecution and defense insisted the leaked recording didn't come from their offices. Meanwhile, the Dallas Police Department has an active investigation into whether the recording was leaked by one of their officers.

Kemp, obviously unhappy the recording was shared publicly, said since they didn't know who released the recording she had few remedies other than to ask the media to simply refrain from publishing evidence before trial and restricting access during future hearings.

"I'm very thankful for an aggressive press, I think they serve a great service in some areas. But you do a disservice when you provide information to the general public that should be heard by the members of a jury and members of the jury alone in helping them make up their decisions," Kemp said. "I'm going to ask the media, should you be contacted by someone who doesn't have the integrity or the  fortitude to abide by the law to decline to publish any information that they might be providing to you."

Kemp then threatened that if such material is published, she would restrict reporters covering the trial to do so without the aid of electronic devices.

"If you don't decline to publish it -- I know many people have asked that we broadcast this trial -- I don't want to interfere in the media's abilities to inform the public, but if we continue to have leaks, when this trial is had, the media will cover this trial with paper and pen, and paper and pen alone, because Miss Guyger has a right to have a fair trial. The state has the right to have a fair trial and previewing evidence that may or may not come into evidence in the trial is not appropriate and it's not fair. We want to honor all of the amendments of the Constitution."

With that, Kemp then moved on with official business of setting pre-trial and trial dates. 

Two more pre-trial hearings will be held in July before the actual case goes to court in September. Jury selection for the trial is scheduled for Sept. 6, exactly one year after Jean's death.

Testimony is scheduled to begin Sept. 23.

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