(USA TODAY) — Jurors heard starkly contrasting versions of what happened the night a Dallas police officer fatally shot a neighbor she mistook for a burglar last September, as prosecutors and the defense made their closing arguments in Amber Guyger’s murder trial Monday.
Guyger, who is white, has maintained her shooting of upstairs neighbor Botham Jean, a black accountant from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, was a tragic mistake partly caused by fatigue as she went home after a 13-hour shift.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Fine, who began his closing argument by reading from Guyger’s testimony, called that interpretation of the events “absurd’’ and “garbage,’’ saying Guyger should have known she was in the wrong apartment.
“It’s not a mistake. It’s a series of unreasonable decisions,’’ Fine said. “Nobody had to die. She caused his death. She acted unreasonably.’’
Guyger, 31, has claimed self-defense, saying she feared for her safety when she went into the apartment believing it was her home and found the door unlocked. Guyger said she spotted Jean in the dark apartment, thought he was an intruder and shot him with her service gun when he failed to obey her command to put his hands up.
Jean, 26, lived on the fourth floor directly above Guyger, who said she parked on the wrong level by mistake. The front door of his unit opened when Guyger put in her key because of a defective lock and latch.
Defense lawyer Toby Shook told the jury that Guyger had to make a split-second decision and her actions were reasonable, and the deadly outcome was the result of “a series of horrible mistakes.’’
“You’ll never see a case like this that’s so tragic,’’ Shook said. “So tragic.”
The week-long case is now in the hands of the jury, which will decide whether Guyger is guilty of murder or a lesser crime like manslaughter, or whether she should be acquitted. Jurors began deliberating Monday afternoon.
During her testimony on Friday, the first time she spoke publicly about that fateful night, Guyger wept as she expressed remorse for the killing.
“I hate that I have to live with this every single day of my life and I ask God for forgiveness, and I hate myself every single day,” Guyger said as she looked across the courtroom at Jean’s family. “I wish he was the one with the gun and he killed me. I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life.’’
It’s not clear whether Guyger, who was fired by the Dallas Police Department after the incident, attempted to give Jean first aid as he lay dying from a gunshot wound to the chest, although she acknowledged her uniform was clean of blood.
Guyger also testified that she exchanged texts with her police partner while waiting for paramedics to arrive.
Shook said prosecutors were trying to appeal to the jurors’ emotions by drawing that testimony, which he said was no reason to find her guilty.
“You can hate her for sending that text. You can be angry with her,’’ Shook said. “You can hate her, but you can’t convict her.’’
Contributing: The Associated Press