The judge who gave a Bible and a faith-themed word of encouragement to Amber Guyger is defending her actions, saying the interaction took place after the trial and was intended to help Guyger become a better person.
“She asked me if I thought that God could forgive her and I said, ‘Yes, God can forgive you and has,’” Judge Tammy Kemp told the Associated Press.
“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,” Kemp 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.”
Guyger, a former police officer, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the 2018 death of Botham Jean. Guyger had entered his apartment, allegedly thinking it was her apartment, and shot Jean.
Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, took the witness stand after the sentencing to tell Guyger he forgave her and wanted her to give her life to Christ.
Moments later, Kemp gave Guyger a Bible and pointed her to John 3:16. Kemp reportedly told Guyger that God “has a plan for you.” The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed an ethics complaint against Guyger with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, claiming she violated her code of conduct.
Kemp told the Associated Press it was the first time she had given a Bible to or discussed her faith with a defendant.
“Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not,” Kemp said. “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 is black. Guyger is white.
The interaction, Kemp noted, didn’t come “from the bench.”
“I came down to extend my condolences to the Jean family and to encourage Ms. Guyger because she has a lot of life to live,” Kemp said.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Tinnakorn Jorruang
Video courtesy: CBSDFW
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.