An 18-year-old’s act of forgiveness stunned a courtroom this week when the young man embraced and forgave the woman convicted of murdering his brother.
Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, received a 10-year sentence on Wednesday for fatally shooting Botham Jean in his home after mistaking it for her own apartment in September 2018.
Guyger claimed that she pulled the trigger out of fear, believing that Jean had broken into her house.
The tragic case sparked an ongoing discussion about race, as the white police officer admitted to killing an innocent black man who had done absolutely nothing wrong.
In what was a highly publicized trial, the victim’s family has demanded justice, with their attorney arguing that Guyger deserves a lengthy sentence.
“The only reason we all sit in this courtroom today is because of her actions,” prosecutor LaQuita Long said Wednesday, according to The Dallas Morning News.
“And for her actions, there must be consequences.”
However, one of Jean’s relatives didn’t want Guyger to spend the greater part of her life in prison.
Instead, he called for forgiveness and faith — as he said his brother would have wanted.
Brandt Jean, 18, spoke directly to the defendant when he took the stand Wednesday, and his emotional testimony left the courtroom stunned.
“I hope you go to God with all the guilt,” he said. “If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself — I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.”
The teenager continued, acknowledging that he spoke only for himself and not for his family.
“I love you just like anyone else and I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did. I personally want the best for you,” he said. “I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but 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.”
“Give your life to Christ,” he added. “I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”
“I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”
Jean then asked the judge if it would be possible for him to give Guyger a hug.
Judge Tammy Kemp granted his request, and the two crossed the courtroom and shared an emotional embrace as the jury looked on.
Moments later, Kemp spoke with the defendant, also offering her a hug and praying for her. The judge then handed Guyger a Bible.
“You can have mine. I have three or four more at home,” she said, according to CNN. “This is the one I use every day. This is your job for the next month. It says right here. John 3:16. And this is where you start. ‘For God so loved the world.'”
Guyger was heard responding, to which Kemp replied something along the lines of, “It’s not me that’s good. It’s because I’m a believer in Christ,” according to a witness who spoke with WFAA.
The courtroom, as well as the thousands of readers who have been following the case, were stunned by Brandt Jean’s extraordinary act of forgiveness.
However, some people were frustrated by the teenager’s willingness to extend grace to his brother’s killer.
“We have a right to be angry, a right to grieve and a right to want justice,” African-American historian and writer Jemar Tisby told The Washington Post.
The hugs came after Guyger was sentenced to only 10 years in prison, a ruling that left many people frustrated and troubled. Outside the courtroom, protesters gathered, demanding the justice they felt the family had been denied.
“We have mourned,” Jean’s father, Bertrum Jean said. “We have wept. But we trust that God will do the rest.”
As for Brandt Jean’s actions, the teenager’s witness will extend far beyond the events of this trial, as he honored his brother’s memory in a way that no one else has.
By offering forgiveness, he called attention to the fact that in a tragic case such as this one, the only hope for freedom for either party is in the healing power of grace.
Forgiveness is not just for the forgiven, but for the forgiver as well.
Thanks in part to his brother’s words and willingness to act as a true example of Christ by embracing a person who did not deserve his mercy, Botham Jean’s legacy will be one of power, healing and purity.
His innocence is undisputed, and he’ll be remembered as the kind of man who served the Lord and brought joy to others.
Many have been inspired and encouraged by his brother’s powerful words.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, for instance, called the exchange “an amazing example of faith, love, and forgiveness.”
This makes my heart hurt. There were no winners in this situation. Sad all around but once again grace prevailed. An amazing example of faith, love, and forgiveness. Lifting up both families in prayer during this time. ❤️?? https://t.co/sXkkQfi17d
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) October 3, 2019
“I would hope that the greater community, not just Dallas, not just Texas, but the greater United States, could gain a message from that,” Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said, according to The Post.
Thanks to his brother’s tribute, one can only hope that Botham Jean will be remembered not just as a person who died a senseless death, but as a man who lived an honorable life.
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