‘We want to get it right’: Dallas County DA asks for patience in Botham Jean case

By WBUR

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, from left, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson, center, and 1st Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes, right, address the media during a news conference, Wednesday, June 22, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(WBUR) — Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson is weighing in on the Botham Jean case. Jean, a black man, was shot and killed in his Dallas apartment by Amber Guyger, a white off-duty police officer.

Officers like Guyger, who is facing manslaughter charges, are seldom charged in shooting cases. When they are charged, they’re rarely convicted. But Johnson has indicted several officers since taking office in 2016.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Johnson (@FaithJohnsonDA) about the case, and the murder conviction for Roy Oliver, the former Texas police officer who shot and killed unarmed black 15-year-old Jordan Edwards last year.

Interview Highlights

On the case of Amber Guyger, the Dallas officer who shot and killed Botham Jean

“Obviously, we can’t talk about the facts. The only thing I can say … is that we are investigating that case, it’s still ongoing, and we haven’t slowed up. We’re looking at every conceivable, possible thing that we can look at to be able to bring this case to the grand jury. And it won’t be tomorrow, it won’t be next week, because we say to people, ‘We want to get it right.’ We’re not necessarily concerned about doing it quick, but we’re concerned about making certain that it’s right. Now, a lot of people are thinking, ‘Oh, well why didn’t the DA go out there and arrest her?’ Well what they need to understand is that, we received this case from the Texas Rangers. We had nothing to do with their investigation as it relates to manslaughter, whether or not they decided they need to arrest her before, whether or not she ought to be fired — we have nothing to do with any of that.”

“A lot of times we do partner with the police. … But we have to still say, ‘We are not going to tolerate bad apples doing bad things to good people, innocent people.’ ” Faith Johnson

On her goal of making the DA’s office “the people’s office,” and where prosecuting police officers fits with that goal

“We are here for justice equality. So it’s not that we are trying to prosecute a police officer, just say, ‘Hey we’re going to go out there and prosecute police officers.’ We’re just simply saying we want to prosecute anybody who’s going to break the law, whether you’re a police officer or a non-police officer. Because keep in mind, I love police, so I know it’s always a reluctancy on behalf of district attorneys all over the country, they do not want to do that. They feel hesitant, because a lot of times we do partner with the police. We do work different offenses together. But we have to still say, ‘We are not going to tolerate bad apples doing bad things to good people, innocent people.’ We can’t tolerate that.”

On other instances around the country of African-American men being killed by police officers, like Michael Brown and Eric Garner

“We knew when we went into other cases — one example, we tried the Roy Oliver case, and we were able to successfully get a guilty verdict, and … there had been no guilty verdict in Dallas County in 45 years. … We prosecuted that case, that killing was last year, and we tried him just recently. We got the guilty verdict, and it was a historic verdict. People rejoiced not just all over the country, but all over the world. And you know why they did that? They did that because of all the cases you just mentioned. So many people had their day in court, and those officers were found not guilty.

“People were really losing faith in the criminal justice system, because that’s exactly what they were saying: ‘Hey, is there any justice in America?’ And not that I speak to those cases, I just speak to the fact that we tried a case and we were able to get a guilty verdict, not for manslaughter, but for murder. And we will continue to bring justice, because we’re just simply saying … we want equal justice for everybody, and we don’t want anyone to have favoritism over one citizen over another. That’s just my commitment.”

On whether the July 2016 shooting of five Dallas police officers continues to resonate

“People are still concerned about that. That will be with us for a long time. We won’t ever forget that. Because as I said, we support our police officers. Our police officers, when you really think about what they do, they put their lives on the line every single day. And unfortunately, you have a few bad apples, and we’re going to make certain that justice is done.”

This segment aired on September 19, 2018.

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3 comments

  1. People must understand that Justice is a process and not just a step. Most people who do not understand the US Justice system and understand the various dynamics just insist that they want justice. These are three separate law enforcement agencies, all independent of each other, Dallas Police. Texas Rangers and the District Attorney's office. Unlike St. Lucia where the police along with the DPP's Office is responsible for all prosecutions, most people think that a manslaughter case opened by the Texas Rangers is the end. In fact the Dallas police has in a way recused itself from the investigation because it is one of their own, and rightly so. The Rangers have gone ahead and charged manslaughter on the face of the case, however, that process is subject to the State's DA office pending investigation. The charges can quickly change if the finds sufficient cause for murder pending a Grand Jury verdict.

    The best thing is to keep quiet and wait and allow the process to take its course. The system also allows for a review of the process, which serves as a safety net in the event people slept at their jobs. We should also be aware that the wheels of justice spins both ways and even the accused has rights. We should be aware that in St. Lucia the most pertinent issue giving rise to an inoperable and unjust system lies in the abrogation of accused persons, rendering prosecutions unsuccessful or incarcerating people for long periods pending their trial. The latter more often results in mistrials, reduced sentencing at the eventual trial and even acquittal.

    All of the above ingredients are recipes of a failed Judiciary and yet all are present in St. Lucia's system. So do we go on being unaccountable while we call on others to be accountable? On the matter of race, many whites have been killed in St. Lucia, although not by police but have they gotten justice? Likewise many blacks also continue to suffer. It just further clarifies that systematic lapses has a negative on everybody while racial prejudices are personal choices. A simple transfer of personnel may be all that is required in a racially prejudiced system as evidenced by the Texas District Attorney being black and has already secured a white police officer's conviction. Compare that to systematic failure which is a political issue and each person supporting unconditionally the same politicians who have perpetuated the failed system? Any questions?

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  2. They are trying to handle ppl so Dallas won't burn, cause they know ppl are tired of all the black men that are dying in the Amerikkk. Stop the racism and give these men justice then all will be at peace with police. Justice for Botham ✊🏿

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  3. Saint Lucia and the world demand justice for Botham Jean, above all the decease family needs to get closure. While patience is of the essence until justice within the confines of the law is not exercised we the world and Caribbean will be continuous in demanding justice, there will be peaceful protest through every possible civil rights group throughout every corner of this beautiful world, which was made to be enjoyed by all no matter the race or ethic back ground. Justice justice

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