They're Already Trying 'Reefer Madness Defense' To Help Cop Get Away With Killing Botham Jean

Post-Racial America

The trial of Botham Shem Jean has already started. Jean is charged with taking two in the chest and abdomen from Dallas police officer Amber Guyger while inside his own home. He then died without a valid license to perish. As you can imagine, Guyger has been greatly traumatized over the possibility of this mildly inconveniencing her. Her "story," which I put in quotes as I consider it a work of fiction, is that she went to the wrong apartment and wrongly assumed Jean was a burglar. In this case, she hopes two wrongs will make it all right.

Jean's family buried him on Thursday, which purely coincidentally coincided with the public release of one of many search warrants executed on his apartment. Dallas's FOX 4 News emptied a few rounds into Jean's character, perhaps also confusing it for a burglar, and ran a piece revealing the "developing" news that police found "marijuana" in his apartment. They also found a disoriented woman who'd just killed a man. What sort of house of ill fame was Jean running? Maybe Guyger did everyone a favor by shutting it down.

The police searching a homicide victim's apartment is not unusual. It helps them form a theory of the crime and discover a possible motive. They can't just rely on Guyger's "story." Oh, they totally will, but they shouldn't because that's stupid. All anyone knows for certain is that Guyger shot and killed Jean in his own apartment.

The inventory return yielded:

2 fired cartridge casings
1 laptop computer
1 black backpack with police equipment and paperwork
1 insulated lunch box
1 black ballistic vest with "police" markings
10.4 grams of marijuana in ziplock bags
1 metal marijuana grinder
2 RFID keys
2 used packages of medical aid

The document does not say where any of the items were located in the apartment or who the items belong to.

The FOX 4 story, especially its headline, gave the impression the marijuana was Jean's. This is standard protocol in officer-involved shootings of black people. Raise the specter of reefer madness and the public will buy that the officer had no choice but to fatally shoot someone during a routine traffic stop. The cop who killed Philando Castile claimed he smelled marijuana on him, which somehow made him fear for his life. When I smell pot on someone, I'm usually just afraid they'll eat all the fries off my plate.

But is this even an "officer-involved shooting"? Guyger was off-duty, and even David A. French at the National Review argued that "the moment Amber Guyger opened the door to an apartment that wasn't her own, she wasn't operating as a police officer clothed with the authority of the law. She was an armed home invader." If she's prosecuted like a "civilian," Guyger will likely claim she acted in "self-defense." The catch is that this defense is only available to someone with a "right to be present at the location where the deadly force is used." You can't really stand your ground on someone else's property. If Guyger tries to pull a Columbus and claim Jean's home as hers just because she got lost, that's like next-level whiteness. She went all manifest destiny on the brother. I bet when the ambulance finally arrived, she was already gentrifying the apartment, redecorating it with a Whole Foods and a little dog park.

So, the pot smoke screen is a way to throw attention off Guyger's actions and back on the dead guy who can't defend himself. Criminal defense attorney Josh Pond pointed out on Twitter that "the definition of relevance is whether or not the information makes a material element of the crime more or less likely." Although it's illegal to possess marijuana in Texas, there is such a thing as the Fourth Amendment, and at least 3/5ths of it would apply to Jean. Guyger as an officer had no probable cause to enter his apartment to search for any narcotics and that's not why she claimed she entered anyway. She's not part of the Dallas pre-crime unit.

Attorney Pete Schulte, who is not connected to the case, says the defense will likely bring it up in trial if the marijuana turns out to be [Jean's]

"I'm not saying Mr. Jean is a bad guy because he had some marijuana in his apartment," Schulte said. "But it could help add some explanation to this crazy case. It just adds another layer of complexity."

Nope, there's no real complexity here. I don't care if Botham Jean was stone cold sober or mellow yellow, Amber Guyger killed him. And the state needs to hold her accountable for it.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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