One week after off-duty Dallas police officer Amber Guyger entered the apartment of 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean on Sept. 6, 2018, and shot two bullets into his torso, allegedly because she thought she was in her own home and that he was a burglar, the Dallas Fox affiliate tweeted: “DEVELOPING: Search warrant: Marijuana found in Botham Jean’s apartment after deadly shooting.”
The tweet by KDFW-TV hit cyberspace on Sept. 13, 2018, the same day as Jean’s funeral in Richardson, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.
Jean’s family and friends were outraged. Botham’s mother, Allison Jean, lashed out at the Dallas Police Department, accusing the authorities of defaming her son.
“To have my son smeared in such a way, I think shows that the persons who are really nasty, who are really dirty and are going to cover up for the devil, Amber Guyger,” Jean said during a press conference.
The Fox-owned-and-operated TV station’s tweet about the police search, which allegedly turned up 10.4 grams of marijuana, has opened a larger question: Does it matter whether a small amount of cannabis was found in Jean’s home? He had settled in for the night to watch a football game.
Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, a Jean family attorney who is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, called the warrant and release of the information on the day of Jean’s funeral “part of a pattern.”
“Instead of investigating the homicide, searching the policewoman’s apartment and collecting relevant evidence, they went specifically to Jean’s place looking for ways to tarnish this young man’s image,” Merritt told Marijuana.com. “The warrant was an attempt to smear the character of a murdered man.”
When an unarmed black man is shot and killed by police, one of the first issues that comes out is that cannabis was found in the victim’s system, said Merritt, who grew up in south central Los Angeles in the 1980s.
“It should not matter,” Merritt said.
Marijuana a Common Thread in High-Profile Killings of African-Americans
It should not have mattered that Trayvon Martin, 17, had marijuana in his system when George Zimmerman shot and killed him in 2012. But it seemed to matter to the judge in the case who allowed Martin’s toxicology results in front of the jury.
Press coverage of the trial, currently underway, of a Chicago cop who was videotaped shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014, referred to the black 17-year-old victim as an “angry teen who admitted smoking marijuana.”
When African-American Sandra Bland, 28, was arrested in Prairie View, Texas, on July 10, 2015, for failing to use her turn signal, a toxicology report detected a small amount of THC in her system, which provoked local authorities to publicly question whether the cannabis had affected her “state of mind.” Bland was found dead in a jail cell three days after her arrest. A Harris County medical examiner deemed Bland’s death a suicide as the result of asphyxiation. A Waller County jailer had found Bland unconscious from hanging July 13, 2015.
After two Sacramento police officers shot Stephon Clark, 22, in the back at least eight times on March 18, 2018, in his backyard while holding a cell phone, it quickly came out in the press that Clark had traces of marijuana in his system.
Texas Authorities Aren’t Speaking
Lonny Haschel, Staff Lieutenant and spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety in the Dallas Area, told Marijuana.com that they do not comment on ongoing situations but provided a Sept. 14, 2018 statement from the Texas Rangers.
“The Texas Rangers, in conjunction with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, are continuing to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the shooting death. Once the investigation is complete, it will be submitted in its entirety to the DA’s Office for prosecution.”
Guyger was charged with manslaughter and released the same night on a $300,000 bond. Haschel said the Texas Rangers would not comment on whether Guyger’s car or apartment had been searched.
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said during a Sept. 10, 2018, press briefing broadcast on Dallas-Forth Worth CBS affiliate KTVT-TV that the manslaughter charge was a decision made by the Texas Rangers and could be upgraded to murder when her office presents the case to the grand jury.
“The ultimate decision, in terms of what this charge will be, will be presented to the grand jury. Faith Johnson, your Dallas County District Attorney, has taken on this case and believe me, we will make certain that justice is done,” the prosecutor said.