To reach that decision, the jury was influenced by what they believed Jean would have wanted, the remorse Guyger exhibited on the witness stand and that she did not set out to kill Jean, but made fatal decisions after accidentally entering his home, said a black female juror and a white male juror, identified by the court as Jurors 21 and 34, in an interview that aired during a Friday segment of “Good Morning America.”
“I think that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Juror 34 told ABC News. “No matter how many years we would have gave Amber Guyger, it’s not bringing Botham back,” the juror said, calling the murder “a mistake.”
Both of the interviewed individuals thought 28 years seemed punitive.
“I’m going to be honest and true. I was like, ‘I can’t give her 28 years’,” Juror 34 recalled telling the 12-person panel. Ten years, the juror said, acknowledged the severity of the crime but also allowed the 31-year-old to rebuild a life post-release.
Guyger, who is white, wept on the stand and testified that on the evening of Sept. 6, 2018, she thought she was entering her own unit, one floor below, when she encountered her unarmed black neighbor in his apartment. The off-duty officer mistook him for an intruder and fired two shots, killing Jean.
“I’m so sorry,” Guyger said last week. “I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life."
“I wish he was the one with the gun that killed me,” she added.
After a week-long trial riddled with drama, the jury rejected Guyger’s self-defense claim and delivered a murder conviction — a verdict many have called historic.
Faced with the power to take away a person’s liberty for 28 years, Juror 21 told ABC News that a handful of jurors cried. Juror 24, attempting to channel what Jean would want, asked for a less harsh sentence.
“They were asking us to take an eye for an eye for Botham,” Juror 21 said, “and I feel like he isn’t someone who would take an eye for an eye. He would turn the other cheek.”
The juror continued, “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.”
Outside the courtroom and through Wednesday night, protesters criticized the number as too lenient.
Those closest to Jean supported it.
Jean’s 18-year-old brother Brandt Jean gave a stunning victim impact statement, rejecting an overly harsh punishment and, instead, evoked forgiveness. Addressing Guyger directly, he said he didn’t want to see her incarcerated, then asked the judge for permission to hug her. Brandt Jean and Guyger clutched each other, weeping in a drawn-out embrace.
That night, Jean’s parents addressed the crowd that had gathered at a memorial service held at their church. His father addressed the congregation and said, “We don’t hate you, [Amber]. You have broken us, but we would like to become friends at some point in time, I think I have the ability to do it ... despite my loss,” according the local NBC affiliate.
On Friday, Juror 21 said, “I don’t think Botham would want to take harsh vengeance."