For the first time in days since the disturbing viral moment which launched a series of social media responses and think pieces, Judge Tammy Kemp expanded upon why she felt compelled to hug Amber Guyger, the ex-Dallas police officer who was convicted of murdering Botham Jean, a 26-year-old unarmed Black man who she fatally shot in his home. Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison last week.
Guyger, 31, claims she returned home from her apartment exhausted on the night of September 6, 2018, and mistook her apartment for Jean’s, which was located on the fourth floor directly above hers. She said as she entered she was startled and mistook Jean for an intruder, firing the fatal shots which took his life.
Kemp spoke to TIME saying that she was taken aback by all of the outrage thrown in her direction over her non-conventional move. The Texas judge hugged Guyger moments after Jean’s youngest brother Brandt led the action, an action that summarized a visceral pain for Black people in America, following the string of killings of unarmed Black men and women by white police officers.
Kemp conveys that she hugged Guyger because she sought her out and asked how she could begin the road to find God’s forgiveness.
“She asked me if I thought that God could forgive her and I said, ‘Yes, God can forgive you and has,’” Kemp told The Associated Press.
After the hug Kemp also handed Guyger her personal bible and opened it to John 3:16 for Guyger to read. The passage reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
“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.”
“Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not,” Kemp continued. “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.”
Many have called for Kemp to be disciplined with a judicial misconduct investigation. According to NBC Washington, The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct on Thursday. Days before the verdict was decided, Judge Kemp faced criticism for allowing the jury to consider the usage of the “Castle Doctrine” which operates similar to Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.
After Guyger’s conviction, more tragedy struck as Joshua Brown, a key witness for the prosecution, was recently slain by a bullet to the mouth and chest. Activists and supporters of Brown are calling for an independent investigation into the horrendous killing as speculation grows regarding the timing of the shooting and motive.
As discussed in a recent piece on MadameNoire, there is always a knee-jerk reaction for Black communities and other undeserved communities in America to instantly forgive the hand which constantly strikes them. While everyone’s road to forgiveness travels a distinct and different path, hopefully Judge Kemp will take a beat to analyze why so many individuals on both sides of the aisle, take issue with her lack of impartiality.