Ex-cop’s murder trial featured novel consideration of ‘castle doctrine’

The doctrine was considered even though the shooting took place in the victim’s own apartment

Ex-cop’s murder trial featured novel consideration of ‘castle doctrine’

The trial of a former Dallas police officer featured a novel consideration of what is called the ”castle doctrine” in Texas.

The jury, which on Tuesday found Amber Guyger guilty of the murder of Botham Jean last year, was told by the presiding judge to consider the doctrine, even though Guyger shot Jean inside Jean’s own apartment.

The legal doctrine is generally understood to mean that a person who is in their own dwelling is allowed to use force – including deadly force – for self-defence from an intruder, if they know or have reason to believe that such use of force is immediately necessary. At least 25 states in the US have some form of the doctrine enshrined in law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Guyger said at her trial that she mistook Jean’s apartment as hers, which was located directly one floor below. The door was ajar, leading her to suspect someone broke in, she said. Her lawyers said that after Guyger entered the apartment, she believed Jean, whom she saw as a “silhouette figure” at the time, was an intruder.  

Jean walked toward her when she asked to see his hands, which prompted her to fire two shots, Guyger testified. She said her police training meant that she was shooting to kill.

Guyger’s attorneys claimed that it was reasonable she thought she was in her own apartment, which made it reasonable that she acted in self-defence when she thought there was an intruder in her home.

Prosecutors objected to the doctrine being considered because the shooting took place in Jean’s apartment. They also said that Guyger encountered several signs indicating she was at the wrong floor and at the wrong apartment. These included Jean’s bright red doormat, the apartment number, the apartment’s carpeting, a neighbour’s planter, and a skylight, they said.

Prosecutors also questioned why Guyger used deadly force. When she first suspected a break-in, she was safe in a hallway. She also had her police radio, as well as her personal phone, to call police. Guyger was in uniform and just ended a shift when the shooting happened.

Recent articles & video

US law firm avoids immediate sanctions over fake claims in Visa and Mastercard settlement

Report reveals law firms in San Francisco and Los Angeles move out of downtown areas

New ‘Good Governance’ Code introduced in the UK to ensure lawful and effective council operations

How secure document storage solutions can protect your law firm

Pearce IP litigation head on how NZ legislation is handling new tech

Select Committee accepts NZLS recos for gangs amendment bill

Most Read Articles

The most influential members of NZ’s legal profession for 2024 revealed

Lane Neave welcomes additions to senior ranks

High Court reduces sentences in animal neglect case against horse owner

Two make partner at Malley & Co