Guyger's sentence was somewhat lenient, statistically, but not by much

Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger faced a statutory range of five to 99 years for the shooting death of Botham Jean. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Five to 99 years is a broad spectrum. Based on that range alone, the sentence has been perceived by many as lenient. Statistically, it was probably a somewhat lenient sentence, but not by much.

Unlike the federal sentencing system, for which detailed data is available by offense and offender type, sentencing data from individual states is not as accessible. Texas releases some statistics on sentencing: in 2018, according to one report, some 478 convicted offenders were sentenced to prison terms, while 15 offenders actually received a probationary sentence.

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Former Dallas officer Amber Guyger convicted of killing her neighbor, Botham Jean
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Former Dallas officer Amber Guyger convicted of killing her neighbor, Botham Jean
FILE - This file photo provided by the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office shows Amber Guyger. A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in the case of Guyger, a former Dallas police officer who fatally shot her unarmed black neighbor in his own apartment after she said she mistook it for hers on Sept. 6, 2018. (Kaufman County (Texas) Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
This March 24, 2014, photo provided by Harding University in Searcy, Ark., shows Botham Jean, speaking at the university. Authorities said Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, that a Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed Jean, a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (Jeff Montgmery/Harding University via AP)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
This photo from video released Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, by the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office in Kaufman, Texas, shows Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger getting booked after turning herself in Sunday, Sept. 9 following the fatal shooting of Botham Jean in his own apartment. Guyger was arrested manslaughter and has since been released on bond. (Kaufman County Sheriff's Office Jail via AP)
South Side Flats apartments are shown in this Monday, Sept. 10 2018 photo in Dallas. Authorities say a Dallas police officer said she shot a neighbor whose home she mistakenly entered last week after he ignored her "verbal commands." David Armstrong of the Texas Rangers wrote in an arrest affidavit released Monday that Officer Amber Guyger said she didn't realize she was in the wrong apartment until after she shot 26-year-old Botham Jean and went into the hallway to check the address. Guyger was booked Sunday on a manslaughter charge in Thursday night's killing of Jean and was released on bond.(AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
Brandt Jean, center left, brother of shooting victim Botham Jean, hugs his sister Allisa Charles-Findley, during a news conference outside the Frank Crowley Courts Building on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Dallas, about the shooting of Botham Jean by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger on Thursday. He was joined by his mother, Allison Jean, left, and attorney Benjamin Crump, right. (AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
A resident holds up an electronic key used to open an apartment door at the South Side Flats in this Monday, Sept. 10 2018 photo in Dallas. Authorities say a Dallas police officer said she shot a neighbor whose home she mistakenly entered last week after he ignored her "verbal commands." David Armstrong of the Texas Rangers wrote in an arrest affidavit released Monday that Officer Amber Guyger said she didn't realize she was in the wrong apartment until after she shot 26-year-old Botham Jean and went into the hallway to check the address. Guyger was booked Sunday on a manslaughter charge in Thursday night's killing of Jean and was released on bond.(AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
People stand near Botham Jean's apartment in this Monday, Sept. 10 2018 photo in Dallas. Authorities say a Dallas police officer said she shot a neighbor whose home she mistakenly entered last week after he ignored her "verbal commands." David Armstrong of the Texas Rangers wrote in an arrest affidavit released Monday that Officer Amber Guyger said she didn't realize she was in the wrong apartment until after she shot 26-year-old Jean and went into the hallway to check the address. Guyger was booked Sunday on a manslaughter charge in Thursday night's killing of Jean and was released on bond.(AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
This photo from video released Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, by the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office in Kaufman, Texas, shows Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger getting booked after turning herself in Sunday, Sept. 9 following the fatal shooting of Botham Jean in his own apartment. Guyger was arrested manslaughter and has since been released on bond. (Kaufman County Sheriff's Office Jail via AP)
A Dallas Police vehicle is parked near the South Side Flats apartments on Monday, Sept. 10 2018 photo in Dallas. Authorities say a Dallas police officer said she shot a neighbor whose home she mistakenly entered last week after he ignored her "verbal commands." David Armstrong of the Texas Rangers wrote in an arrest affidavit released Monday that Officer Amber Guyger said she didn't realize she was in the wrong apartment until after she shot 26-year-old Botham Jean and went into the hallway to check the address. Guyger was booked Sunday on a manslaughter charge in Thursday night's killing of Jean and was released on bond.(AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics attempts to collect and analyze information on crime and punishment at all levels of government, including states. According to one BJS report on time served in prison nationwide in 2016, offenders sentenced for murder or non-negligent manslaughter served an average of 15 years in state prison before their initial release. The median time served in prison for murder was 13.4 years.

According to the same report, 96 percent of violent offenders released in 2016, including 70 percent of those sentenced for murder or non-negligent manslaughter, served less than 20 years before their initial release from state prison. The 2016 report indicates that offenders serving prison terms for murder or non-negligent manslaughter served an average of 57 percent of their maximum sentence length before being released.

Guyger’s sentence was on the low end of her overall range of five to 99 years, but it was only a few years less than the national average and median. Of course, nationwide statistics can be deceptive, and they don’t take into account the contextual features that make every case and every defendant unique.

Guyger was never going to receive the same sentence as, say, a repeat felon who tortured multiple victims. And yet, her sentence may be higher than many who are convicted of non-negligent manslaughter.

Sentencing trends are different in different parts of the country, and they are even different between the state and federal systems within a given state. It’s hard to say whether Guyger’s sentence is an anomaly nationwide because it’s hard to say ultimately what the average sentence nationwide is for someone who did exactly what she did.

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