The judge who gave a hug and Bible to a former Dallas police officer after she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her neighbor said Monday that she watched the woman change during her trial and wants her to live a purposeful life.
Judge Tammy Kemp said she had never previously acknowledged her Christian faith to a defendant or given one a Bible, but Amber Guyger said she didn’t have one at the end of her trial for the September 2018 killing of her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean.
Kemp gave a Bible and a faith-themed word of encouragement to Amber Guyger, saying the interaction took place after the trial and was intended to help Guyger become a better person.
In her first interview since the jury convicted Guyger of murder last week, Kemp said she felt her actions were appropriate since the trial was over and the former officer told her she didn’t know how to begin seeking God’s forgiveness.
“She asked me if I thought that God could forgive her and I said, ‘Yes, God can forgive you and has,’” Judge Tammy Kemp told the Associated Press.
“If she wanted to start with the Bible, I didn’t want her to go back to the jail and to sink into doubt and self-pity and become bitter,” Kemp said. “Because she still has a lot of life ahead of her following her sentence and I would hope that she could live it purposefully.”
Guyger, a former police officer, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the 2018 death of Botham Jean. Guyger had entered his apartment, allegedly thinking it was her apartment, and shot Jean.
Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, took the witness stand after the sentencing to tell Guyger he forgave her and wanted her to give her life to Christ.
Moments later, Kemp gave Guyger a Bible and pointed her to John 3:16. Kemp reportedly told Guyger that God “has a plan for you.” The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed an ethics complaint against Guyger with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, claiming she violated her code of conduct.
Kemp told the Associated Press it was the first time she had given a Bible to or discussed her faith with a defendant.
“Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not,” Kemp said. “And I don’t understand the anger. And I guess I could say if you profess religious beliefs and you are going to follow them, I would hope that they not be situational and limited to one race only.”
Kemp is black. Guyger is white.
The interaction, Kemp noted, didn’t come “from the bench.”
“I came down to extend my condolences to the Jean family and to encourage Ms. Guyger because she has a lot of life to live,” Kemp said.