Last week the former Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger, was sentenced to ten years in prison for the murder of her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean, when she went into his apartment, allegedly thinking it was her own, and shot him dead on his couch while he was eating ice cream. The initial conviction ten days earlier, was surprising enough for us in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, especially considering that the judge instructed the jury to consider the “Castle doctrine,” even though Guyger was not defending her own home but was actually in the victim’s home. Ten years was not enough.
There is a lot that did not come out in the trial. There had to have been something other than distraction from her 15 hour shift and the sexting she had been doing with her partner prior to walking into the wrong apartment and shooting a man to death on his couch, armed only with a spoon and a bowl of ice cream. We’ll never know what actually happened. We’ll only have her narrative and the narrative of the overheard aftermath by Botham Jean’s now dead neighbor across the hall. But we do know that if their roles had been reversed and Botham Jean had entered the wrong apartment and shot Amber Guyger dead, he would not have had his jury instructed to consider the “Castle doctrine,” and he’d have ended up with life in prison at the very least. Ten years was not enough.
So, I was discussing with my best friend the entire case and verdict and sentencing. She was deep in thought and kept saying, “I don’t know what to tell my kids.”
I suggested that she tell them to never try to get out of jury duty. “If we continue to get out of jury duty and treat it as a nuisance, then the ‘jury of our peers’ will always look like old, white retirees because that’s whose left to fill the seats when all of the African-Americans, Latinx, Muslims, and women are doing whatever it is that they feel is more important than jury duty. Guyger was only convicted because her jury was made of predominantly women and people of color.”
Again, my friend said, “But what do I tell my kids? That they’re not even safe in their own homes? That they can still be gunned down while unarmed in the safety of their own homes by white cops?”
I had not even considered what she was asking because of my own white privilege. I only have to be concerned about these dangers on September 11 each year because we are Muslim. Most of the time, my sons just blend in with all the other white people around them. Only my daughters and I alert anyone to which direction we pray because of our hijabs. So being concerned for their safety 24/7 even in their own homes was not a blip on my radar. So much for being “woke.”
I apologized to her for being short-sighted. I get it a little more now. Being an ally is a continual learning process. I looked at the whole situation again and realized the bigger picture for my African-American sisters and their fears for their children. They are right. Ten years is not enough.