Christian judge who hugged Amber Guyger and gave her a Bible says 'I don't understand the anger'

Christian judge who hugged Amber Guyger and gave her a Bible says 'I don't understand the anger'

EEW Magazine // Faith Issues

To those that have expressed anger and outrage toward the judge in the Amber Guyger murder trial for giving the former cop a Bible and a hug, she has something to say.

“I don’t understand the anger,” said Judge Tammy Kemp, a Christian, who handed down Guyger’s sentence of 10 years in prison for killing Botham Jean, her neighbor.

Kemp said she had never previously acknowledged her Christian faith to a defendant or given one a Bible, but Guyger said she didn’t have one at the end of her trial.

“She asked me if I thought that God could forgive her and I said, ‘Yes, God can forgive you and has,’” Kemp told The Associated Press.

Judge Tammy Kemp gives Amber Guyger a hug after the trial is over. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Judge Tammy Kemp gives Amber Guyger a hug after the trial is over. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

“If she wanted to start with the Bible, I didn’t want her to go back to the jail and to sink into doubt and self-pity and become bitter,” she said. “Because she still has a lot of life ahead of her following her sentence and I would hope that she could live it purposefully.”

Critics contend that it was unethical of Kemp to hug Guyger and give her the Bible. One group asked for a judicial misconduct investigation, and some activists have said the hug took the focus off justified anger at a police killing.

Jean’s death drew widespread attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.

Judge Tammy Kemp gives Botham Jean's mother, Allison Jean, a hug while Botham's father, Bertrum Jean, looks on. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Judge Tammy Kemp gives Botham Jean's mother, Allison Jean, a hug while Botham's father, Bertrum Jean, looks on. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Guyger, 31, had just worked a long shift and was still in her uniform when she entered Jean’s apartment and shot the 26-year-old accountant, who grew up in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia. She testified that she had mistaken his fourth-floor apartment for her own, which was directly underneath his, and that she thought he was an intruder.

After Guyger was sentenced and the jury left the courtroom, Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, was allowed to address Guyger directly from the witness stand. He told her he forgave her and that Botham would have wanted her to give her life to Christ before the two shared a tearful embrace. Soon after that, Kemp walked over to the defense table to speak with Guyger, who she said went through a “marked change” after the verdict.

Kemp said that Guyger asked twice if she could hug her as well, and after a moment’s hesitation, the judge wrapped her arms around the former police officer.

“Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not,” said Kemp, who is black.

“I guess I could say if you profess religious beliefs and you are going to follow them, I would hope that they not be situational and limited to one race only.”

Kemp said she doesn’t know “the state of Ms. Guyger’s Christianity, if she’s even a Christian.” But she said she pointed Guyger to a Bible passage about God’s love “so that she could recognize that, even given the fact that she murdered someone, God still loves her.”

Last week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a secular Wisconsin-based group that routinely files lawsuits challenging religious displays in government, said Kemp was proselytizing from the bench and filed a complaint with a Texas agency that investigates allegations of judicial misconduct.

Kemp defended her actions as appropriate Monday, saying they took place after the legal proceeding was over and were not part of the official trial record.

“I didn’t do that from the bench,” she said. “I came down to extend my condolences to the Jean family and to encourage Ms. Guyger because has a lot of life to live.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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