Compassion in the courtroom
What happened in a Dallas, Texas, courtroom last week ought to be celebrated as an unexpected triumph of compassion — not slammed as an alleged case of misbehavior by a judge.
If you have not heard about the trial of ex-Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, you should. And you should look at photographs of what happened during and after the trial.
Guyger was convicted of murdering a man who lived in the same apartment building she did in September 2018. He was sitting on a couch in his apartment when Guyger walked in, drew her pistol, and shot him to death.
Her defense was that she thought she had entered her own apartment and feared that the man she killed, Botham Jean, was an intruder. Jurors did not accept that.
During the sentencing phase of her trial before Judge Tammy Kemp, Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, 18, testified. He said that if Guyger is truly sorry for what she did, he hopes she will “give her life to Christ.”
Jean then asked and received permission from Judge Kemp to give Guyger a hug. The two, both visibly emotional, embraced.
Guyger received a 10-year prison sentence from the judge. Then, after the formal trial was over, she received something else from Kemp: a Bible.
“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. Then, Guyger asked if she could hug the judge, who agreed.
Now Kemp is being criticized by some who say it was unethical for her to give Guyger a Bible, then hug her.
“I didn’t do that from the bench,” Kemp said, noting the trial had ended when she had her personal encounter with Guyger. “I came down to extend my condolences to the Jean family and to encourage Ms Guyger because she has a lot of life to give.”
Presumably, Texas judicial officials will consider whether Kemp was out of line. We hope not.
What Brandt Jean and Kemp did was something we may need more of — a demonstration of the kind of compassion we see too infrequently in today’s world.
Did Kemp break any rules? We don’t know.
Was what she and Brandt Jean did right? What do you think?