The judge who presided over the trial of Amber Guyger, the former Dallas cop convicted of murdering an unarmed black man last year as he was minding his own business inside his own home, says hugging Guyger after the trial was the “Christian” thing to do.
Texas state District Judge Tammy Kemp has come under fire since she came off the bench in her judge’s robes to hug Guyger and hand her a Bible after a jury sentenced her to 10 years in prison last week for murdering Botham Jean, the Associated Press reports.
Critics said the hug diminished the gravity of Guyger’s crime, that of the murder of an unarmed black man by a law enforcement officer. And a group dedicated to the separation of church and state, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, filed a complaint, claiming judicial misconduct.
In an interview with the AP, the judge dismissed such complaints, saying her faith is important to her and that her actions did not impact the trial as they came afterward.
“Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not,” Kemp, who is black, told the news wire. “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’s actions followed those of Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, who also confounded many when the tearful young man told Guyger he forgave her for killing his brother and then begged the judge to be allowed to hug her.
“He said ‘please,’ and he said ‘please’ again,” Kemp told the New York Times, discussing her decision to allow him to do so. “I just could not refuse him that.”
Kemp’s Christian faith is important to her. She’s a deaconess at the same church she’s attended for 25 years, and keeps a Bible at her desk and near her laptop to remind herself to pray daily, according to the Times.
As the Times reports, at the end of Guyger’s trial:
after the jury had been dismissed, Judge Kemp came down from the bench to offer her condolences to Mr. Jean’s parents, as is her habit when a family has lost a loved one. “I told them that they raised a remarkable son in Botham,” she said.
Next, she said, she stopped by the defense table to offer a word of encouragement to Ms. Guyger. “I said to her, ‘Ms. Guyger, Brandt Jean has forgiven you,’” Judge Kemp recalled, referring to Botham Jean’s brother. “‘Now please forgive yourself so that you can live a productive life when you get out of prison.’”
It was then that an exchange about redemption ensued between Kemp and Guyger, ending with the convicted murderer asking Kemp for a hug.
As the judge told the Times:
Far from regretting her decision, Judge Kemp said she only wished she had not hesitated before agreeing to the hug. “I’m a little embarrassed to say she had to ask me twice,” Judge Kemp said in an interview.
Botham Jean, an accountant who grew up in St. Lucia, was in his apartment eating ice cream when Guyger entered uninvited and shot him, saying she mistook his home for hers and thought he was an intruder.
Jean was just 26 years old.