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Judge in Amber Guyger murder trial defends hug at sentencing

"I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not," said Judge Tammy Kemp, who embraced the former Dallas police officer convicted of murdering Botham Jean.
/ Source: NBC News

A Dallas judge said Monday she "would not" and "could not refuse" giving a hug and a Bible to the former police officer she had just sentenced to 10 years behind bars for killing an unarmed neighbor, Botham Jean, in his own apartment.

District Judge Tammy Kemp, who is black, has come under fire for the compassion she showed last week to Amber Guyger, who was convicted of second-degree murder.

Guyger, who is white, barged into the apartment of her black neighbor Sept. 6 last year thinking it was her own. Believing Jean was an intruder, Guyger, who had just finished a shift, drew her weapon and gunned down the 26-year-old in his own home.

During Guyger's sentencing hearing, the victim's brother, Brandt Jean, also said he wished Guyger well and hugged her.

Both his and Kemp's physical embrace of Guyger, 31, have angered some in the African American community.

Kemp said she felt her actions were acceptable because the embrace came after all official proceedings had been completed.

"I'm surprised that people think that hug was somehow detrimental," Kemp told the Associated Press. "Had you witnessed the person who was hurting as Miss Guyger was, I don't know a person who would have denied her that human contact."

Kemp also handed Guyger a Bible, which drew protests from civil liberty advocates, like The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a watchdog for the separation of church and state.

"And she asked me if I thought her life could still have purpose," Kemp said. "And I said absolutely."

Kemp then said she went to get her bible and encouraged Guyger to read bible verses after the former officer said she wouldn't know where to begin to change her life.

"And then she requested of me, a hug. And, I'm embarrassed to say, I didn't say yes right away," Kemp said. "She asked me a second time and between those asks I was reminded about my responsibility to show love and compassion."