As deliberations in Amber Guyger’s murder trial began, the overwhelming narrative surrounding the case was how Judge Tammy Kemp allowed the jury to consider a law that could interpret the shooting of Botham Jean as self-defense.
Fast forward not even 24 hours later and Kemp was being hailed as a legal genius.
In retrospect, that was true of her from the moment she was assigned the case. But because of the uncertainty of securing justice for white police killing unarmed Black people, no one knew what to expect regardless of the judge’s race. But much like with Black women in general, people should have known better than to doubt Kemp’s ability.
The most recent scrutiny came Monday while Kemp was instructing the jury for how to deliberate. In doing so, she said the racially diverse panel of peers would be allowed to consider what is called the “Castle Doctrine,” a Stand Your Ground-esque law that followed Guyger’s defense’s claim that she had no choice but to shoot to defend herself from what she perceived as a threat. But now, the legal vision from Kemp that no one else saw at the time was apparently to make the verdict “appeal-proof.”
In giving the jury that option, Kemp eliminated the chance of an appeal with a guilty Guyger verdict.
But even before the trial began, Kemp was in total control, including when she put a gag order in place to muffle things like Guyger’s 911 call, which just so happened to leak, and commentary from witnesses and lawyers. That gag order was especially significant on Day 1 of the trial when Guyger’s defense lawyers moved to have a mistrial declared over what they said was Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot offering his opinion on murder being the appropriate charge — only those comments came days after his election in November, well before Kemp put the gag order in place.
She was also widely credited for maintaining control in the court, including when she hushed the cheers while delivering the verdict and when she confiscated a laptop in court because it played music and make other disruptive noises.
She seemed to be applying the law evenly when she sustained and overruled objections from both the prosecution and the defense.
In a downplayed moment of contention, Kemp allowed a juror to remain serving even though she told the bailiff on Day 2 of the trial that she had an undisclosed “relationship” with a witness for both the prosecution and defense. The witness, Texas Rangers officer David Armstrong, told the court that he didn’t believe a crime had been committed when Guyger killed Jean. Kemp prevented the jury from hearing that opinion-based comment but she was still criticized for that allowing the juror to remain serving. However, just like with the “Castle Doctrine,” it looks like Kemp was right in the long run as justice was served with the conviction.
Kemp also held court on Saturday, which helped a much anticipated and delayed trial move briskly.
Guyger’s lawyers tried to get Kemp to rule in favor of the defense multiple times, but she just stuck to her own script and let the process play out the way our forefathers intended it to.
Another move that can’t be underestimated was Kemp refusing to grant a change of venue for the trial before the jury selection process was over in Dallas. Back in August, Kemp said she wouldn’t make a ruling on moving the trial until “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.” The last sentence implied that she thought “a fair and impartial jury” could still be found despite pre-trial publicity. Turns out she was right.
Lastly, Guyger’s fate is truly in Kemp’s hands as she was expected to give the disgraced former cop her prison sentence later this week. And while some folks worried whether Guyger would get anything less than the 99 years in prison she was facing, Judge Tammy Kemp has already shown there is no reason to doubt her.
Scroll down to see how people on Twitter were celebrating her legal mastery after Amber Guyger was found guilty of murdering Botham Jean.