(WBUR) — Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson is weighing in on the Botham Jean case. Jean, a black man, was shot and killed in his Dallas apartment by Amber Guyger, a white off-duty police officer.
Officers like Guyger, who is facing manslaughter charges, are seldom charged in shooting cases. When they are charged, they’re rarely convicted. But Johnson has indicted several officers since taking office in 2016.
Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Johnson (@FaithJohnsonDA) about the case, and the murder conviction for Roy Oliver, the former Texas police officer who shot and killed unarmed black 15-year-old Jordan Edwards last year.
On the case of Amber Guyger, the Dallas officer who shot and killed Botham Jean
“Obviously, we can’t talk about the facts. The only thing I can say … is that we are investigating that case, it’s still ongoing, and we haven’t slowed up. We’re looking at every conceivable, possible thing that we can look at to be able to bring this case to the grand jury. And it won’t be tomorrow, it won’t be next week, because we say to people, ‘We want to get it right.’ We’re not necessarily concerned about doing it quick, but we’re concerned about making certain that it’s right. Now, a lot of people are thinking, ‘Oh, well why didn’t the DA go out there and arrest her?’ Well what they need to understand is that, we received this case from the Texas Rangers. We had nothing to do with their investigation as it relates to manslaughter, whether or not they decided they need to arrest her before, whether or not she ought to be fired — we have nothing to do with any of that.”
“A lot of times we do partner with the police. … But we have to still say, ‘We are not going to tolerate bad apples doing bad things to good people, innocent people.’ ” Faith Johnson
On her goal of making the DA’s office “the people’s office,” and where prosecuting police officers fits with that goal
“We are here for justice equality. So it’s not that we are trying to prosecute a police officer, just say, ‘Hey we’re going to go out there and prosecute police officers.’ We’re just simply saying we want to prosecute anybody who’s going to break the law, whether you’re a police officer or a non-police officer. Because keep in mind, I love police, so I know it’s always a reluctancy on behalf of district attorneys all over the country, they do not want to do that. They feel hesitant, because a lot of times we do partner with the police. We do work different offenses together. But we have to still say, ‘We are not going to tolerate bad apples doing bad things to good people, innocent people.’ We can’t tolerate that.”
On other instances around the country of African-American men being killed by police officers, like Michael Brown and Eric Garner
“We knew when we went into other cases — one example, we tried the Roy Oliver case, and we were able to successfully get a guilty verdict, and … there had been no guilty verdict in Dallas County in 45 years. … We prosecuted that case, that killing was last year, and we tried him just recently. We got the guilty verdict, and it was a historic verdict. People rejoiced not just all over the country, but all over the world. And you know why they did that? They did that because of all the cases you just mentioned. So many people had their day in court, and those officers were found not guilty.
“People were really losing faith in the criminal justice system, because that’s exactly what they were saying: ‘Hey, is there any justice in America?’ And not that I speak to those cases, I just speak to the fact that we tried a case and we were able to get a guilty verdict, not for manslaughter, but for murder. And we will continue to bring justice, because we’re just simply saying … we want equal justice for everybody, and we don’t want anyone to have favoritism over one citizen over another. That’s just my commitment.”
On whether the July 2016 shooting of five Dallas police officers continues to resonate
“People are still concerned about that. That will be with us for a long time. We won’t ever forget that. Because as I said, we support our police officers. Our police officers, when you really think about what they do, they put their lives on the line every single day. And unfortunately, you have a few bad apples, and we’re going to make certain that justice is done.”
This segment aired on September 19, 2018.