Decisive Evidence in “Wrong Apartment” Murder Trial Points to Acquittal

The “wrong apartment” murder trial will shortly be heading to the jury. This is the case in which then-LEO Amber Guyger entered what she claims she believed was her own apartment, encountered Botham Jean who actually was in his own apartment, and shot and killed him in claimed self-defense against a perceived intruder.

Today I note that what should be the most important and decisive evidence—indeed, the only evidence that really matters—in the case was actually provided last Wednesday, and it appears to have been wildly under-reported by a news media that as usual is ignorant of the subject they’re covering.

There are really only two relevant questions in this case of Amber Guyger shooting and killing Botham Jean.

First, if she had been entering her own apartment and found Jean unlawfully present, would her shooting of him have been lawful?

If not, she ought to be criminally liable for killing Jean.

If so, the second question is, was her mistake in entering the wrong apartment, believing it to be her own, a reasonable mistake?

If not, she again ought to be criminally liable for killing Jean.

If the answer to both questions is in the affirmative, however, what we have here is a tragic “awful but lawful” shooting in self-defense. Defenders are not required to make perfect decisions in self-defense, they are merely required to make reasonable decisions, and the reasonably mistaken killing of an innocent person is simply not a crime. (It may, of course, still carry civil liability, but that’s a separate matter.)

For purposes of discussion, let’s assume that if Jean had, as perceived, been an unlawful intruder into Guyger’s own apartment, she would have been legally justified in using deadly defensive force under the circumstances.

That leaves the question of whether her entering Jean’s apartment by mistake, believing it to be her own residence, was a reasonable mistake. In other words, might a reasonable and prudent person in Guyger’s circumstances have made the same mistake of entering the wrong apartment.

Decisive evidence favorable to acquittal on this issue was presented in court last Wednesday by Texas Rangers investigator David Armstrong.

I note, only because of the nature of the race-mad world in which we currently live in, that Trooper Armstrong is black (he is this post’s featured image). Guyger, of course, is white, and Botham Jean was black.

I also note that Trooper Armstrong’s law enforcement agency, the Texas Rangers, is independent of the Dallas Police Department for which Guyger worked at the time she shot and killed Jean.

Finally, I note that Armstrong a witness for the state, and not for the defense.

Trooper Armstrong’s testimony in front of the jury is shared here as it was reported by Dallas CBS news:

The lead investigator of the case for the Texas Rangers took the stand Wednesday during the murder trial of Amber Guyger and described how the layout of her apartment complex could be seen as confusing.

Although Armstrong is technically a prosecution witness, he supported defense claims that the former Dallas officer could have easily been confused about the layout of the South Side Flats, where the shooting took place.

Trooper Armstrong also showed initiative not common in my experience among police investigators:

Armstrong testified that he did a survey of tenants at the apartment complex where Guyger and Jean lived and found that 23% of those tenants had accidentally walked into the wrong apartment because of the layout. He confirmed the hallways of the complex are similar, as well as the parking garage.

So, we have credible evidence that the apartment complex in which Guyger and Jean resided was sufficiently confusing in layout that it was fairly common for people to innocently and with the best of intentions walk into the wrong apartment.

But how would Guyger have managed to even enter Jean’s apartment if his door was closed? Well, that begs the question: Was Jean’s door closed? Trooper Armstrong further testified:

Armstrong also told the jury that Jean’s door was poorly installed and often would not close all the way. The jury was shown videos that supported his claim.

“On multiple occasions, the door would close all the way and the door would also not completely close depending on the distance. And we were just letting go of the door not using any force and sometimes it would close all the way sometimes it wouldn’t, depending on the distance,” Armstrong said.

Further, Trooper Armstrong was not the only credible witness to testify as to the confusing layout of the apartment complex, leading people to walk into the wrong apartment:

A neighbor at the Southside Flats apartments, Whitney Hughes, testified, like Guyger, she two [sic] had walked to an apartment on the wrong floor before, confusing it for her own.

In a criminal trial in which of Amber Guyger’s must be proven guilty of unlawful conduct beyond all reasonable doubt, such evidence should be sufficient to justify an acquittal in this case, absent explicit evidence of bad will on the part of Guyger (and I’ve heard no substantiated examples of such evidence).

That said, juries are unpredictable, so we shall see what we shall see.

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