While local media was busy worrying about whether Amber Guyger can get a fair trial for killing Botham Shem Jean last year, officers with the Dallas Police Department have reportedly gotten orders that make it seem as if leadership was expecting the former cop to be acquitted. Jury selection for the long-awaited trial was scheduled to start Friday, exactly one year after Guyger illegally entered Jean’s own home and shot him on sight the night of Sept. 6, 2018.
Orders came down from the department’s top brass last week that no officers will be given any additional time off until the trial ends, according to WFAA, the local ABC affiliate in Dallas. But it was another order given to the ranks that could be interpreted as the expectations of an acquittal.
“Detectives were also told to have their uniforms, gas masks, helmets and other gear ready,” WFAA wrote, citing “separate memos” from the higher-ups.
The messages taken together — no more time off and get your equipment “ready” — could be a signal that Dallas police leadership were not only preparing for Guyger to be found not guilty, but also for a potential riot in the aftermath of an acquittal.
“The move is to make sure the city has enough resources to protect it,” Terrance Hopkins, president of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, told WFAA. Hopkins’ words were telling in that a guilty verdict would likely bring about rejoicing and not violence. In theory, the only thing to officers would need “gas masks, helmets and other gear ready” to “protect” Dallas would come after an acquittal and not a guilty verdict.
Those orders to police came before Dallas News reported on Tuesday that “people who seem extremely pro-police or highly sympathetic to the causes of groups such as Black Lives Matter” will not be selected as potential jurors in the murder case.
Many people who have been following the case from the beginning have said they don’t trust law enforcement and courts in Dallas to bring justice to Jean’s family. That was true again last month when Guyger appeared in court late last month, when her defense lawyers and prosecutors agreed not to make reference to her employment status during the trial. It was unclear if that meant that lawyers wouldn’t say that Guyger, 31, was off-duty when she shot Jean, who was just 26 years old when he died. It may have been referring to her being fired from the Dallas Police Department. Or perhaps both.
That court appearance followed District Judge Tammy Kemp delaying her ruling on a change of venue motion. She wrote in a separate ruling that she would only decide whether a new location was warranted once the process of questioning prospective jurors is “completed or it becomes apparent” during the interviews “that a fair and impartial jury cannot be selected in Dallas County due to the pervasive publicity in this case.”
That last sentence seemed to imply that Kemp believes that “a fair and impartial jury” can still be selected in Dallas County. The location of the trial is key to both the defense and the prosecution because of how much race factors into the case.
The defense team wasn’t the only group that wanted to make sure Guyger got a “fair” trial. Local media in Dallas has produced a host of news articles and editorials about the same thing as opposed to the dearth of coverage centered on whether justice will be served for Jean.
Convicting an officer of murder is extremely rare, especially when it comes to the victim being Black. The NYPD officer who used an illegal chokehold to kill Eric Garner was fired Monday as his only true discipline for taking the life of an unarmed Black man. That delayed termination came more than five years after the killing took place in broad daylight. “Since 2005, only 33 law enforcement officers have been convicted of a crime resulting from an on-duty shooting where someone was killed,” NBC News reported. A white police officer in Texas who killed an unarmed Black 15-year-old child after shooting into a car carrying a group of teenagers was found guilty last year, making him only the second police officer in nearly 15 years to be convicted of murder. And still, that cop — Roy Oliver — got a light sentence that will allow the possibility of parole after serving just seven and a half years.
On the night of Sept. 6, Guyger claimed that following a long day on the job as a Dallas police officer, she somehow mistook his apartment for her own and, after ordering Jean not to move, shot him twice before realizing the error of her ways. Her story was met with doubt because of a number of factors, including and especially her assertion that Jean’s door was ajar. Videos posted on social media by neighbors appeared to show that apartment doors in the building shut automatically after being released, an indication that Guyger might have lied about that.
In addition to inconsistencies in her alibis, which have changed several times, Dallas police, of which Guyger was a member for five years before being fired, appeared to be helping to cover up the shooting for their colleague. The department was accused of allowing Guyger enough time to scrub her social media accounts and get her story straight before turning herself in three days after killing Jean. It also gave Guyger enough time to move out of her apartment, which was never searched by police despite five warrants allowing them to do so.