Amber Guyger Trial Only the Beginning in Judicial Equality

The conviction of Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in October to ten years in prison for murder is the only the most-publicized case of recent police violence. Many have protested Guyger’s sentence as too short, and that she was let off easy because of her officer status and because of the race of the victim.

Botham Jean was in his own apartment, a floor above Guyger’s, when she entered and fired at him. She claimed to have mistaken his apartment for her own, and thought he was a burglar.

If the roles were reversed, if a black man had shot a white police officer in the same situation, the killer would be sentenced to more time. Black men statistically receive longer sentences than (for example) white women for the same crime, and that woman being a police officer almost certainly influences matters. Guyger deserves an equal sentencing to anybody else, and if that means serving more time, then that is what should have happened.

Her story is suspect. She has changed it a few times–first saying that Jean’s door was locked, later saying that it was not–and many have found problems with the idea that she didn’t notice at any point that she was in the wrong place entirely.

Even if it was a completely honest mistake, she still took an innocent man’s life on the spur of the moment. She shot toward the heart, which at best indicates poor training of Dallas police officers (there was no reason to shoot to kill if she couldn’t tell if the situation posed a threat to her) and at worst indicates that she knew what she was doing when she fired at Jean.

Supporters of the 10-year sentence say that Guyger received the sentence she deserved, and that calls for longer sentencing are influenced by other cases of police violence. Most argue that while those officers should perhaps have been sentenced, one woman should not have to have extra time on her sentence because of the actions of a nation of others. This would make sense if ten years were the proper sentence for her crime. Simply, it is not. A crime of this magnitude should not be punished with ten years of prison (and eligibility for parole after five years, no less).

The people arguing that Guyger’s sentence be lengthened are correct. America is making progress toward a fair justice system, but we have not quite arrived yet.