“I forgive you.” “I love you just like anyone else.” “I personally want the best for you.”
These were the words spoken from the witness stand by 18-year-old Brandt Jean on Wednesday after Amber Guyger (31), a former Dallas police officer, was sentenced to ten years in prison for shooting and killing his brother, Botham Jean (26), whom she thought was an intruder after mistakenly entering his apartment believing it to be her own.
Inspired by his Christian faith, Brandt Jean offered a message of grace, forgiveness, and hope to Guyger despite her past actions in a stunning statement that surprised even his family, who later said they had no idea he planned to extend a message of this sort in court on Wednesday.
“I want the best for you because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want… and the best would be to give your life to Christ,” Brandt Jean said to Guyger, who could be heard crying in the background.
He then continued by expressing not only his own forgiveness but sharing grace rooted in his Christian beliefs by saying, “I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you.”
Then, in a remarkable moment, Brandt Jean asked Judge Tammy Kemp if he could give Guyger a hug.
After a long pause, he looked at Judge Kemp again and said more pleadingly, “please,” to which the judge agreed.
As Brandt Jean walked from the witness stand toward Guyger, the two shared a long embrace as Guyger broke into tears.
Soon after, Judge Kemp also hugged Guyger before offering the former police officer her personal Bible.
The judge then spoke to Guyger directly, appearing to offer her a message of hope similar to the one Brandt Jean had given her.
Earlier this week, in a unanimous decision, the jury rejected Guyger’s claims of self-defense and convicted the former Dallas police officer of murder for the killing of Botham Jean in September 2018.
Botham Jean, a 26-year-old accountant and native of St. Lucia, was described by family during court proceedings as “the brightest light in the room,” who “loved God” and did his “best to live a good, honest life.”
Guyger faced a maximum sentence of up to 99 years with prosecutors advocating for at least a minimum of 28 years to correspond with the age Botham Jean would have turned this past Sunday.
After receiving a ten-year prison sentence with parole eligibility in five years, she was met by protestors outside the courtroom who believed her punishment to be too light – a sentiment also echoed by members of Botham Jean’s family.
In addition to expressing discontent over the delivered sentence, Botham Jean’s mother, Allison, accused the city of Dallas and the Dallas Police Department of insufficient training of its officers, mishandling of case procedures, and corrupt practices.
The atmosphere inside the courtroom was different, however.
With the words, “I forgive you,” “I love you just like anyone else,” and “I personally want the best for you,” Brandt Jean offered a message of hope and grace, that showcases the redemptive power of forgiveness.
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.