THE hug between Brandt Jean, the brother of Botham Jean, and Amber Guyger has taken the spotlight in the trial for justice in the aftermath of the murder of Saint Lucian national Botham Jean. Although many have applauded Brandt for the courage he took in publicly announcing his personal remission of Amber’s crime, many others have castigated him for taking that stance. Speaking directly to Amber in the courtroom, Brandt said, “I don’t even want you to go to jail; I want the best for you… because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want…”
Brandt had been largely silent throughout the trial, and his forgiveness for his brother’s killer shocked many people around the world. On Wednesday afternoon, Brandt had asked Judge Kemp, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug please?”
His words were in far contrast to the chaos outside from people who were visibly angry with the sentence which was on the short end of a 5-99 range.
Just as soon as the judge granted his request Brandt walked toward Amber who literally ran into his arms, and the two embraced several times, while Amber sobbed audibly. Even the judge appeared to be giving Amber a motivational lift afterward speaking to her for several minutes, then handing her a Bible. The controversial move by the judge is now being challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation who made a complaint to the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct. More details on this are available in the VOICE story entitled, ‘More on the Amber Guyger Trial that ended in a 10-year sentence’.
While all of this was going on live, commentators agreed it was something they’d never seen before, and a gesture of forgiveness that would help start the healing process for both sides. This was made even more clear when Botham’s father Bertrum said later that he’d felt a wave of peace sweep over him upon hearing his younger son’s words – and from everything that was said by his family and seen with his tears on the stand, prior to that, Botham’s father had lost all hope on how to move forward without his son.
Those who did not agree with Brandt’s actions felt him acting on emotion or impulse did not serve the Black Lives Matter Movement, something the family’s attorney immediately addressed, saying “Brandt lost his brother Botham when he was 16 years old. He has been living with that hurt and anger for one year. As his mother described, that pain has sat on her family for over a year like Hurricane Dorian sat on the Bahamas. It has ripped them up in a way you will never fully understand until you go through it. Brandt has felt that more than any of us. He gets to process and respond however he wants to. People who feel like it’s their role to critique him or tell him how to grieve can kick rocks.”
Although people chose to focus on the Christian aspect of forgiveness, in a case when the family has made it clear from the onset their religious stance, there have been other instances which have as commentators in the Botham Jean case suggested Brandt’s actions did, transcended race, religion, and other cultural differences.
For example, a Muslim mother made headlines in 2018 when she forgave her son’s killer in court. Her son had been left lying in the gutter after being shot. In court, she hugged her son’s killer, a black man and also embraced his mother. She told the young man in court, “I don’t hate you. I can’t hate you. It’s not our way. Showing mercy, that is our way.” She told her son’s killer that the death of her son had been ordained, and that perhaps the purpose was to save his life. In a powerful statement she expressed, “You are not going to be killed by this society. My family would like very much to be a part of your seeing a better way of life so that this does not repeat itself.”
The emotional moment has been shared millions of times, as Brandt’s probably will be too. Perhaps what connects the two is the realization that any life you take, as expressed by the Muslim woman, is not just that one life, but all connected to that life. In that light, and again in the words of the grieving mother, revenge would solve nothing, and it would not bring back a loved one. On the reason a person would choose to forgive in that situation, the woman also shared: “You can only truly see how to help a person once you have forgiven them.”
Although many people choose only to focus on the appropriateness of the forgiveness of Brandt, who was an unmistakable reflection of the Botham Jean painted throughout the trial, the reality is that the young man’s grace does not mean that every other part of the family’s horrific experience needs to be overlooked. Just after Brandt spoke, Botham’s mother Allison Jean called out the corruption of the Dallas Police. At the end of it all she let it be known that she was headed back home to her country, and the rest of the fight was left was up to those within that space for equal justice, and for the eradication of corrupt practices. Even though some felt like it wasn’t enough, the trial resulted in a solid conviction of a police officer in a situation which never should have occurred, which is a step in the right direction.