The lenient prison sentence handed down to Amber Guyger has created a ripple effect across the country with no shortage of opinions on the contentious matter. California Sen. Kamala Harris has now officially joined the fray and shared some especially poignant commentary surrounding the punishment given to the former Dallas police officer who a jury decided murdered Botham Jean in his own home last year.
Harris called into the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show and serenaded him for his birthday live on the air before she was asked to weigh in on a much heavier topic. When Sharpton quizzed the Democratic presidential candidate on her thoughts on Guyger’s prison sentence, Harris, a former prosecutor in San Francisco and ex-attorney general of California was more than ready.
Guyger was facing up to 99 years in prison before she was sentenced to just 10 years, which will probably make her eligible for parole in a few years. The topic of Black forgiveness has dominated the conversation about the murder trial after both Jean’s brother and Judge Tammy Kemp took turns hugging Guyger in court. But Harris, citing her prosecutorial past, took a decidedly different tack and suggested Guyger’s light sentence was far from justice being served.
“I think there is no question this is yet again another example of the lack of fairness in terms of sentencings. And the reality of that is she murdered someone. Ten years? I have seen people go to prison for twice that for drug possession,” she said.
Harris suggested that were the roles reversed, Jean probably would have gotten a much harsher prison sentence in part because he was a Black man.
“And here we have somebody who is dead and we have to deal with that in terms of how we acknowledge the criminal justice system, in particular, sentencing has not been applied equally to people based on race,” she added.
Listen to the full interview by clicking here.
Harris, who has been accused of being a proponent of harsh sentences when she was in her former law enforcement roles, pointed to her criminal justice reform plan she said she would implement if she is elected president. Part of that plan is advocating to end harsh prison sentences, or mandatory minimums, that have disproportionately affected Black and brown people. However, her comments to Sharpton on Thursday show that she was still in favor of longer sentences based on judicial discretion.
Vox reported that as a prosecutor and attorney general, Harris “pushed for programs that helped people find jobs instead of putting them in prison, but also fought to keep people in prison even after they were proved innocent.” Vox added that Harris “also resisted calls to get her office to investigate certain police shootings.”