Ahead of the January start of Texas’ next legislative session, a group of North Texas lawmakers announced a new police and criminal justice reform bill called the “Botham Jean Act."
“We love our noble peace officers and their lives matter, but I want to be clear there are no blue lives. Noble police officers are Black, brown and white,” state Rep. Carl Sherman (D-Lancaster) said.
If passed, Bo’s Law would address police body and dash camera recordings and amend the state’s castle doctrine.
Killed at Home
Coverage of the 2018 killing of Botham Jean at the South Side Flats by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger who was found guilty of murder in 2019.
“We believe that every person should continue to be allowed to protect their home from an attacker, but the castle doctrine should protect the victim, not the perpetrator,” state Rep. Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth) said.
Two years ago, former Dallas police Ofc. Amber Guyger shot and killed Jean inside his apartment after she said mistook it for her own. During her murder trial, Guyger’s defense asked the jury to consider that Guyger believed she was defending her home even though she was mistaken.
Jurors found Guyger guilty of murder and sentenced her to 10 years in prison.
Collier said the current castle doctrine is too subjective and added that Bo’s Law would also address the mistake of fact defense.
“The door must be closed on any attempt to include such an argument under the castle doctrine as a means to justify killing – just because you believed you were in your own home,” Collier said.
“It will assert what many of us took for granted that it always asserted: which was that it was a protection of the homeowner against the intruder and not intended or contemplated to be a defense for the intruder to use against an innocent homeowner,” said Jason Hermus, the prosecutor in Guyger’s trial.
The proposal would also amend castle doctrine to include a duty to retreat if it’s possible to retreat safely, according to Collier.
“If you are not in imminent danger, if you are outside of the door before you enter, it would be a duty to retreat. There is no need to proactively go into the dangerous situation,” she said.
Additionally, Bo’s Law would add sanctions for anyone who turns off police or body camera recording devices during an investigation.
Testimony in Guyger’s trial revealed Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata asked another officer to turn off a camera inside a squad car at the scene of the shooting so Guyger and Mata could speak privately.
Mata has said Guyger was going to take a call from her attorney and had the right to attorney-client privilege.
Sunday, state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) said Bo’s Law would add a penalty for anyone who ended a police body camera or dash camera recording during an investigation under most circumstances.
“Would that happen in any instance in any other person accused in a crime? No,” West said.
Botham Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, said she supported Bo’s Law. She said the legislation offered a “tangible” action following her son’s murder.
“I am very happy that this is happening and that it will assist another family, another victim,” Jean said. “What was done to Botham is already done, but we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen to another black family, another black man, or another black woman.”