DALLAS COUNTY, Texas — A former Dallas police officer serving time for a murder conviction wanted that conviction overturned, but a court denied her appeal on Thursday.
Amber Guyger fatally shot Botham Jean in his Dallas apartment in Sept. 2018 while she was still in uniform.
She was arrested on a manslaughter charge, but was convicted of murder in Oct. 2019 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Her appeal requested a lesser charge and a new hearing for her punishment.
Guyger argued that the evidence is legally insufficient to show she committed murder, according to court documents. The court ruled that evidence supported the guilty verdict of murder. Guyger admitted during her testimony that she intended to kill Jean.
Guyger also argued it was a "mistake of fact" that she thought she was in her own home. The court said that the "mistake of fact" in criminal law is different than that situation.
Her lawyers argued because she believed she was in her apartment, Guyger was acting in self-defense, according to court documents. Her right to self-defense, if applicable, "did not negate her intent to kill Jean."
The appeals court overruled her appellate issues and upheld the conviction and trial judgment.
Chief Justice Robert D. Burns III, justices Lana Myers and Robbie Partida-Kipness made up the three-justice panel to hear the case.
Guyger can now appeal to a higher court in Austin, but she will continue serving her 10-year sentence.
What happened the night Botham Jean was killed?
During the trial, Guyger said she had just ended a 13-hour shift when she said she mistook Botham Jean's apartment as her own.
She told investigators that she parked on the fourth floor instead of the third at the South Side Flats apartments, arrest records show. But prosecutors said the fourth floor of the garage is open-air, while the third floor, where Guyger normally parks, is not.
Prosecutor Jason Hermus said Guyger, who was still in uniform, also missed several visual clues during her walk down two long hallways.
She also failed to notice Jean’s red doormat, the only one with such a noticeable doormat on the third or fourth floor, and the smell of marijuana in his home — all indicators she had gone to the wrong door.
During the trial, it was revealed that Jean's apartment was more cluttered than Guyger's, which was sparsely furnished. Guyger's apartment had a half-circle entry table with a vase of flowers toward the living room of her apartment.
She did not have a rug, nor a coffee table. Jean had a large round ottoman in front of his couch. Guyger did not have any artwork behind her couch, unlike Jean.
The door was unlocked and Jean was on the couch eating vanilla ice cream and watching TV when Guyger walked in. She shot twice, striking Jean once in the lower chest. The bullet ripped downward through his body, Hermus said.
Prosecutors said Guyger was more concerned with texting her partner than with trying to help Jean. After the shooting, she texted her partner twice saying she needed him.
“She should’ve been giving 100% of her attention to that man,” Hermus said of Jean, who was lying on his living room floor while Guyger waited outside for first responders.
Guyger's keys were in Jean's door when the first officers arrived. The doors at the apartments take an electronic lock, which turns like a normal key.
Jean hadn't locked his door when he returned home from running an errand. Crime scene photos show the strike plate, which is where the door latches closed, was slightly warped.
The door wasn't fully closed and latched the night of the shooting. Typically, the doors at the South Side Flats should fully close automatically, because of the way they are weighted.
Texas Ranger David Armstrong, the lead investigator on the case, testified that he tested the closing of Jean's door several times. It didn't consistently slam shut each time, he said.
Guyger testified she was so disoriented that she had to walk outside of the unit to get the apartment number for the 911 dispatcher.
Jurors had to determine whether Guyger reasonably thought she was inside her own apartment at the time of the shooting and whether a reasonable person in her position would have shot Jean in self-defense, as she alleges.
The jury found her guilty of murder.