Amber Guyger’s sentencing to 10 years in prison for killing Botham Jean, an unarmed Black man, in his own home caused a media firestorm on Wednesday (October 2). But it was Judge Tammy Kemp’s treatment of the convicted murderer that set social media ablaze. A video of Kent hugging Guyger and offering her a gift of a Bible with a prayer after her sentencing has now prompted one organization to take action.
On Thursday (October 3,) the Freedom of Religion Foundation filed a complaint against the Dallas judge with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for her controversial actions.
The foundation is designed to protect the separation of church and state per the Constitution’s principals, saying Kemp’s “inappropriate” and “unconstitutional” actions “overstepped judicial authority,” per their official complaint.
After reading the jury’s sentencing decision, CNN reports the Dallas County judge gave Guyger her own personal Bible and also prayed with the 31-year-old with scripture references.
“You can have mine. I have three or four more at home," Kemp reportedly said. "This is the one I use every day. This is your job for the next month. It says right here. John 3:16. And this is where you start. 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
“This has been put in front of you for a reason,” said the State District judge to Guyger during their conversation. “He has a purpose for you.”
The filing also addresses Botham Jean’s brother Brandt Jean’s emotional act of forgiveness towards his brother’s killer (he was seen telling Guyger, “I don’t even want you to go to jail, because that’s exactly what Botham would want to. Again I love you as a person”), but it calls Kemp’s gesture of compassion a violation of procedure.
The Wisconsin-based non-profit organization acknowledges Kemp’s right to utilize her faith as a private citizen, but because she was dressed in a judge’s robe and in the courtroom at the time of the exchange, she was acting in her capacity as a representative of the U.S. government when she introduced her faith to a felon.
“It is perfectly acceptable for private citizens to express their religious beliefs in court, but the rules are different for those acting in a governmental role,” detailed the letter. “We, too, believe our criminal justice system needs more compassion from judges and prosecutors. But here, compassion crossed the line into coercion.”
The complaint will be investigated as a violation under the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.