A show of compassion. Dallas judge defends giving Amber Guyger a Bible and hug, saying she ‘could not refuse’
Judge Tammy Kemp was clad in black robes and seated at the bench in her Dallas courtroom when she reached for a tissue and wiped the tears from her eyes.
It was the coda to an intense, closely watched trial. The scene unfolding in front of Kemp would move her to do something she’d never before done in her career on the court – a decision that later provoked both outrage and applause.
Kemp watched last week as the brother of Botham Jean, an unarmed black man shot to death inside his own apartment, crossed the room to hug Amber Guyger, the white ex-cop convicted of murder in the case. Minutes later, after she dismissed the jury, Kemp hugged members of the Jean family. She then approached Guyger and, eventually, gave her a Bible and embraced her.
On Monday, in her first interview since the trial ended, Kemp – a black former prosecutor – defended herself and said she didn’t know why people were upset. Guyger asked her for the hug, she said. Kemp hesitated, then leaned in and put her arms around Guyger, who had just been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not,” Kemp told The Associated Press. “And I don’t understand the anger. And 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 saw a woman changed, she told the AP, someone who might seek God’s forgiveness if she knew where to start, if she had a Bible of her own.
“She asked me if I thought that God could forgive her and I said, ‘Yes, God can forgive you and has,’ ” Kemp said. “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. Because she still has a lot of life ahead of her following her sentence and I would hope that she could live it purposefully.”
The judge argued that her actions were appropriate because they took place after the trial and were not part of the official record. But Kemp’s reasoning ignores a crucial point, said South Texas College of Law professor Kenneth Williams: the trial might not actually be over.
It’s possible Guyger could appeal the decision and the case could wind up back in front of Kemp, who may then have to recuse herself, Williams said.
“There would certainly be questions about whether she’s neutral and impartial,” he told The Washington Post. “As a judge, I don’t think you’d want to do anything to indicate that you might favor or oppose any parties in the case. I believe that by counseling Ms. Guyger, she’s given that impression.”
VERSE: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” Psalm 150
QUOTE: “A person who loves his job, will never work a day in his life.”
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