Two jurors who convicted former police officer Amber Guyger of murdering Botham Jean in his own apartment said the light prison sentence the jury settled on—10 years—stemmed from their belief that Jean wouldn’t have wanted “harsh vengeance.”
Guyger, 31, lived one floor beneath Jean, 26, in an apartment complex in Dallas, Texas. She said she entered his apartment by mistake last year and thought he was an intruder. She shot him dead when he advanced towards her.
Guyger faced up to 99 years in prison. Dallas County Assistant District Attorney LaQuita Long suggested a minimum of 28 years. But the two jurors, who were not named, said they pushed for a lighter sentence.
“There was a few of us crying, and I really started crying, and I was listening to some people say they agreed with 28,” Juror 21 told ABC News. “I asked for a lighter sentence.”
“I’m a be honest and true,” Juror 34 said. “I was like, ‘I can’t give her 28 years.'”
Guyger gave emotional testimony during the trial. She expressed regret, saying, “I’m so sorry. I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life.”
“I wish he was the one with the gun that killed me,” she added.
The debate among the jury lasted a little over one hour on Oct. 2 before they settled on the 10-year sentence.
The jurors said they took into account Guyger’s expression of remorse, the portrayal of the shooting as a mistake, and Jean’s background.
Jean, a native of the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, was a 2016 graduate of Harding University in Arkansas and was interning at PricewaterhouseCoopers at the time of his death.
Jean was active in campus affairs, leading a men’s social club and interning at the campus ministry of the Christian college.
“I don’t think Botham would want to take harsh vengeance,” Juror 21 told ABC. “I didn’t feel like I had any right to speak for him, and he isn’t there to talk for himself, but listening to how people talked about him, I felt like he would forgive her.”
“They were asking us to take an eye for an eye for Botham,” Juror 21 added, “and I feel like he isn’t someone who would take an eye for an eye. He would turn the other cheek.”
The revelations from the jurors are the latest twist in the case, which has been closely followed nationwide.
During the sentencing, Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, hugged Guyger and said he forgave her for killing his sibling.
“I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother—I personally want the best for you,” the 18-year-old said. “I wasn’t going to say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want.”
After the sentencing, Judge Tammy Kemp also hugged Guyger.
“You haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven,” the judge told Guyger. “You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”
The judge also said that Guyger should start reading the Bible.
“You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith. You start with this,” Kemp told her.
A nonprofit atheist group filed a complaint against Kemp for her actions.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.