DALLAS (WIAT) — A Texas judge hugged a former police officer convicted of murder. It happened just before Amber Guyger was sent to prison for murdering an unarmed man in his own apartment.
There were several key moments throughout Guyger’s trial for the death of Botham Jean, but that moment when the two embraced is what has people talking.
The judge spoke with CNN’s Ed Lavandera about the controversial moment, and why she did it.
Judge Kemp says Botham Jean’s little brother is the last person she expected to speak directly to Amber Guyger.
His family said the young man had been quiet and they were worried about him, but he was preparing to offer forgiveness.
Brandt Jean, Botham Jean’s brother, told Amber Guyger “I forgive you.”
Judge Tammy Kemp explained, “In my mind, I had decided he’s (Brandt) too broken up to do this. I was very surprised that this young person was so poised, so composed and expressed a level of forgiveness and maturity that I don’t think anybody expected from him at the time.”
When Brandt Jean asked to give Guyger a hug, Judge Kemp admitted there was some hesitation.
Kemp said, “I really think I was on the verge of saying that’s not allowed. I couldn’t look at him. I couldn’t say no, and so I said yes.”
Reporter Ed Lavandera asked Kemp, “And knowing that’s something that’s typically not allowed?”
In which Kemp replied, “Yeah, yeah.”
Amber Guyer rushed into Brandt Jean’s arms and the hug last for nearly a minute.
Kemp said, “I thought Mr. Jean needed that. And when Ms. Guyger ran to him I understood that she needed it too.”
Judge Kemp spent a long while talking to Botham Jean’s family, offering prayers over hugs and tears.
Amber Guyer was still in the courtroom.
Kemp said, “I said to her, ‘Ms, Guyger, Mr. Jean has forgiven you. Please forgive yourself so that you can live a purposeful life. And she asked me, She said, ‘Do you think my life can still have a purpose? And I said, ‘I know it can.’ And she said, ‘I don’t have a Bible. I don’t have a Bible. I don’t know where to begin,’ and that’s when I went and retrieved my Bible and gave it to her.”
Judge Kemp read her a gospel passage about salvation and then Guyger asked the judge for a hug.
Kemp explained, “When she asked me for a hug, she said, ‘Can I hug you?’ I was thinking, did she say, ‘Can I hug you?’ And I don’t think anybody would have refused her a hug had she asked it of them in that moment.”
When asked about the critics responding to her hug with Guyger, Kemp explained,
“You saw Amber Guyger from behind. All you ever saw was a petite woman coming to a courtroom and sitting stoically. But I watched her from the front and I saw the change in her during the course of the trial.”
Amber Guyger made the judge one last promise before she was led away in handcuffs: that she would personally return judge Kemp’s Bible when she gets out of prison in 10 years.
Kemp said, “I hope that she will be a better person coming out than she was going in.”