DALLAS - Dallas County Judge Tammy Kemp is breaking her silence after she presided over the Amber Guyger murder trial.
The judge has received criticism and even a formal complaint after she was seen hugging Guyger and giving her a Bible after the former Dallas police officer was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Judge Kemp spent a lot of time inside of her chambers reflecting on the Amber Guyger case during and after the highly-publicized trial that featured many memorable moments.
Some of the most talked about moments came after Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison for murdering her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean.
After the jury left the courtroom, Botham's brother, Brandt, was allowed to address Guyger directly from the witness stand. He told her he forgave her for fatally shooting his brother. He then begged Judge Kemp to hug her, which she allowed after a long pause.
"What I was thinking about at that moment was Sheriff Brown’s policies, and that is generally there is no contact with the defendant,” Kemp recalled. “But when he said please a second time, I just could not refuse him. I could not, and so I said yes. I thought they both needed it, and that’s why I didn’t want to stand in the way of it.”
Soon after that emotional moment and waking over to hug Jean’s family, Judge Kemp walked over to Guyger to talk to her. Judge Kemp says the two talked about forgiveness.
Guyger requested a hug from Judge Kemp twice. A conversation about God led to Judge Kemp giving Guyger her personal Bible, which she retrieved from her chambers. It was a moment that critics contend was unethical. The Freedom from Religion Foundation has asked for a judicial misconduct investigation.
"What I told her is, ‘Brandt Jean has forgiven you. Please forgive yourself so that you can live a purposeful life when you get out of prison,’” the judge said. “She asked me if God would forgive her. And I said, ‘Yes I believe he will. He will forgive you.’ And then she said, ‘I don’t even have a Bible. I don’t know where to begin. I don’t even have a Bible.’ And I just said, ‘I’ll get you one.’ I saw someone who was really, really hurting deeply. And if a hug was going to help her, I had to extend love and compassion to her.”
During the trial, the defense tried to get the state's lead investigator, David Armstrong, and a former deputy police chief, Craig Miller, certified as expert witnesses.
Much of the proceedings were handled out of the presence of the jury. Both law enforcement officers said based on the ‘totality of the facts’ that they believed Guyger's deadly actions were reasonable. Armstrong also said he did not believe Guyger was guilty of a crime.
Judge Kemp did not allow the testimony from either witness to be heard by the jury. She says she is unsure if that decision will trigger an appeal.
“I don't know, and I don't want to comment about rulings that took place in the case in particular. I can just say that in cases involving an allegation of self-defense, the standard is for an ordinary and prudent person. You don’t need an expert to help an ordinary and prudent person to determine a reasonable decision."
Looking back over the trial, Judge Kemp says she would not have done anything differently. She says she’d even hug Amber Guyger against despite facing a possible reprimand from the judicial ethics committee.
Following the sentencing, Judge Kemp went on a previously scheduled retreat. It was something she says she greatly needed.