Update: This story was updated at 4:01 p.m. with the judge’s ruling.
State District Judge Tammy Kemp ruled Monday that Amber Guyger’s murder trial will remain in Dallas.
The jury was chosen Friday. But prosecutors and defense attorneys sparred in court Monday on whether to move the case to another county.
Kemp, who is presiding over the case, had told the attorneys she would rule by the end of the day on whether to move the trial. The trial is expected to begin Sept. 23.
Neither defense attorneys nor prosecutors could comment on the judge’s ruling because there is a gag order in the case.
Jurors must ultimately decide whether it was a crime when Guyger, 31, shot Botham Jean in his own apartment. And if it was a crime, was it murder or a lesser crime such as manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide? They also could find Guyger not guilty.
The defense argued that the enormity of media coverage has tainted the jury, but prosecutors said they believe the jury can be fair.
Guyger fatally shot Jean on Sept. 6, 2018, at the South Side Flats apartment building near Dallas police headquarters. She was off-duty but still in uniform when she confused Jean’s apartment with her own and mistook him for a burglar, she told investigators. Jean, a 26-year-old accountant from St. Lucia, was shot once.
One of Guyger’s attorneys, Michael Mowla, argued in court Monday that media coverage surrounding Jean’s death was so pervasive that it prejudiced the jury. But Dallas County prosecutor Doug Gladden told Kemp that residents of counties where the defense suggested moving the case see the same news coverage as people living in Dallas.
Listen to The Dallas Morning News special audio report, The Death of Botham Jean: Amber Guyger on Trial
Of the 12 jurors selected for the jury Friday, Gladden said in court, four had not heard of Guyger or Jean. Eight had. Of the 12 jurors and four alternates, Gladden said that 15 said in their questionnaires that they had no opinion about the case. One had an opinion but could set it aside and hear the evidence presented in court before making a decision.
It’s unclear how many of the jurors are men and how many are women. The jury pool was sent home before the jurors were chosen, and that information has not been made public. The racial makeup of the jury is also not yet public.
If the trial had moved, only the jury pool would have changed because it would have been made up of residents from another county. The judge and attorneys would have remained on the case.
Guyger’s attorneys wrote in a motion seeking a change of venue that “media hysteria” surrounding the case has been prejudicial. They wanted court proceedings to be moved to one of six counties: Collin, Ellis, Fannin, Grayson, Kaufman or Rockwall.
An analysis by The Dallas Morning News found that Guyger probably would face a jury that is whiter and more conservative if her trial had moved to one of those counties.
Exposure to media coverage of Jean’s death isn’t enough to exclude someone from jury duty. Jurors just can’t have made up their minds about whether Guyger is guilty.
Read more about Botham Jean and Amber Guyger.
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