IT’S exactly six months since Botham Jean was shot and killed in his apartment in Dallas, Texas but for attorneys representing his estate that is too long a wait for justice to prevail.
Lee Merritt, Daryl Washington and Benjamin Crump who were in Saint Lucia this week to participate in the launch of the Botham Jean Foundation were optimistic of an early start to the trial, hopefully this summer, noting that the case was not moving fast enough for them.
“I can’t say I am satisfied with the rate this thing is proceeding, six months is too long to wait for justice,” Merritt said.
Although confident of securing a conviction, the trio are not blind to the difficulties that lay ahead in securing the conviction of a police officer on a murder charge in the United States of America.
“We believe that the Dallas prosecutorial office has the competency and the delegation to convict, however the conviction of a law enforcement officer anywhere in the United States is a difficult thing so it will take our continued investment, our prayers, our talents, continued interest from the media, from the community and an all-out effort to secure what is in fact a very, very rare outcome, which is a conviction of a police officer. We believe it will happen but it would take much more than the norm in order for this to happen,” said Merritt.
He explained that one of the primary concerns in a federal civil rights lawsuit involving law enforcement is a subject called Qualified Immunity. It’s the most common defence for law enforcement officers. Merritt said just the idea that their behaviour falls into a category of actions that is constitutionally protected makes them (police officers) believe they should be able to avoid responsibility.
“We believe in our ability to overcome the concept of Qualified Immunity (which) in this case is, very strong because Guyger’s presence in Botham’s home does not fall into the category of things she should be able to do in her line of work,” Merritt said.
Botham was fatally shot by white female police officer Amber Guyger last September 6 while in his apartment. She has been charged with murder but is out on bail. The incident sparked international outrage with cries for justice ringing almost everywhere in the western world.
The incident attracted heavy media attention across the world during the latter part of last year, particularly in the United States however a gag order issued by a judge, has forced the attorneys to be careful about speaking openly about the case. This has resulted in the case registering a drop in media attention, something Merritt, Washington and Crumb have no problems with recognizing that this was done to ensure the purity of the jury pool.
“We believe that was the best thing for her (the judge) to do but when it comes down to the time of the trial, we are hoping that we all become reinvested in the case and the outcome because we do believe that public pressure and attention would affect/impact the outcome,” Merritt said.
The three will be taking the lead in the civil litigation case against the City of Dallas and Amber Guyger and according to Washington the civil matter and the criminal matter will be proceeding at the same time.
“They have not filed a motion to stay the case, in fact the city is vigorously defending Amber Guyger at this point. We have done extensive briefing on behalf of the family and we are very confident that we will proceed forthwith,” he said.
He added, “We gonna do whatever we need to do to make sure that whatever happened to Botham never happens to anyone else. It is senseless and police officers should be held accountable. One of the most frustrating things for us is to see how Amber Guyger is parading around the courthouse as if she is upset about being there,” Washington said.
“She doesn’t feel the frustration the family is feeling, she doesn’t feel the pain the family is feeling. They are trying to portray her as an innocent person and that just cannot happen. It is now time that we focus on this police officer and her actions,” Washington said and who believes that had Guyger follow protocol Botham would have been here today, which is why a jury should be able to find her guilty.
The attorneys are pursuing the violation of Botham’s civil rights as well as the family claims of wrongful death.
“We know the opportunities for Botham were unlimited and as a result of this officer wrongfully taking Botham’s life… What we do in these civil cases, we pursue civil damages on behalf of the family and Botham’s estate and that is what we are doing right now,” Merritt said.