Dallas County prosecutors on Wednesday filed a motion objecting to a request by a former Dallas police officer’s attorneys to move her high-profile murder trial to a new venue.
The filing came two days after Amber Guyger’s attorneys filed a motion requesting a change of venue. She’s charged with murder in the death of Botham Jean in September 2018. She shot Jean dead in his own apartment and claims she believed she was in her own unit and mistakenly believed he was an intruder.
Amber Guyger's defense team submitted a 94-page motion with Judge Tammy Kemp, arguing “there has been pervasive, prejudicial, and inflammatory media-coverage in the community, replete with falsehoods and speculation.”
The defense argues media coverage coupled with comments from influential persons like former elected Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson and then-U.S. Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke amounted to a dangerous combination against Guyger.
Prosecutors quickly filed their objection 48 hours later, saying Guyger can get a fair trial in Dallas. They attached to their objection affidavits from two employees of the DA's office who say: “I do not believe the media coverage against Amber Guyger to be inflammatory or prejudicial (and)... Do not believe there exists a dangerous combination against Guyger, instigated by influential person.”
Attorney Ray Jackson is not part of the Guyger case says the law allows anyone who lives in the county to file an objection affidavit.
“It doesn't exclude people that work for you but I would certainly think it would be better if you had people who were independent making the affidavits versus people that work within the department,”
Both sides agree there should be a hearing on the change of venue motion but want the judge to rule only after what’s called voir dire takes place.
“It actually means to speak the truth and it is jury selection,” said Stephanie Luce-Ola, an attorney not involved in the case.
She says both sides want the judge to wait to issue her ruling until the jury selection process is complete.
“The best way to answer the question of whether you can seat a fair and impartial jury is to try and seat a fair and impartial jury,” Luce-Ola said. “So the judge is going to want to know if those people are out there and if the case can be seated in Dallas County.”
Jackson said it will be hard to get people who have not been exposed to the case.
“What you will try to find is in spite of your exposure, can you be fair and impartial?” Jackson said.
Kemp has not yet set a date for a hearing on the change of venue motion.
Jury selection is set to begin September 6. The trial is scheduled to start September 24.