It seems like the entire world can’t stop talking about the startling imagery of seeing not just a judge embracing a convicted murderer in court but also the brother of the person killed in that murder hugging the shooter. It’s not every day you see such acts of compassion in a court of law, especially when Black people are the victims.
But that’s precisely the treatment that was given to Amber Guyger, the disgraced former Dallas police officer who rose to infamy after she shot and killed Botham Jean in his own apartment last year. Guyger was given a 10-year prison sentence for committing murder, a punishment that has been widely criticized as being too lenient. But Jean’s brother, Brandt, who asked Judge Tammy Kemp for permission to hug the convicted murderer during her sentencing hearing, said on the stand that he had no desire for her to go to prison at all.
The 18-year-old brother of Botham Jean expounded on that sentiment during an interview with “Good Morning America” on Friday. He said hugging her provided him with a sense of liberation that was informed by his faith in God.
“This is what you have to do to set yourself free,” he said in the interview that aired Friday morning. “I didn’t really plan on living the rest of my life hating this woman.”
Brandt Jean went on to say that hugging Guyger would pay off for him in the long run in the form of him having “peace of mind” so that he can live a happy life.
“I knew that I just told her that I forgave her and with usual instances the words only, they mean something, but I felt like that wasn’t enough,” he explained about wanting to hug Guyger. “That was just my gesture, my decision of letting her know that I truly forgive her.”
There has been a lot of talk about the topic of Black forgiveness and how it’s rarely reciprocated. Jean Brandt said his approach “towards actually forgiving” Guyger began immediately.
“Each and every one has steps to get towards actually forgiving. I probably went through those faster than other people. Some people went through it faster than me,” he said. “If you are trying to forgive [Guyger], understand that she is a human being. She still deserves love.”
Citing his Christian upbringing, Brandt Jean said that everybody deserves to be forgiven because that’s what God would want.
“She made a mistake that she probably truly regrets so if you want to forgive her, just understand that God forgave you,” he said. “I know that every time I ask God for forgiveness, he forgives me, so who am I to not forgive someone who asks?”
Both Botham Jean’s father also took the high road and said he would like to be friends with Guyger one day. “I think I have the ability to do it and I would like to be a friend despite my loss,” Bertram Jean said to an audience at a Dallas church hours after Guyger’s sentencing on Wednesday. “That’s why we are Christians.”
Botham Jean’s mother, however, wasn’t quite as eager to forgive. She said she was proud of her son, Brandt, for what he did. But she also made it clear that his actions were his and his alone.
“What he did today, was remarkable, and he did it all on his own,” Allison Jean said Wednesday. “What Brandt did was to cleanse his heart towards Amber … I do not want it to be misconstrued as a complete forgiveness of everybody.”