Judge says she couldn't refuse convicted ex-cop a hug

DALLAS (AP) — The judge who gave a hug and Bible to a former Dallas police officer after she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her neighbor said Monday that she watched the woman change during her trial and wants her to live a purposeful life.

Judge Tammy Kemp said she had never previously acknowledged her Christian faith to a defendant or given one a Bible, but Amber Guyger said she didn't have one at the end of her trial for the September 2018 killing of her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean.

In her first interview since the jury convicted Guyger of murder last week, Kemp said she felt her actions were appropriate since the trial was over and the former officer told her she didn't know how to begin seeking God's forgiveness.

"She asked me if I thought that God could forgive her and I said, 'Yes, God can forgive you and has,'" Kemp told The Associated Press.

"If she wanted to start with the Bible, I didn't want her to go back to the jail and to sink into doubt and self-pity and become bitter," she said. "Because she still has a lot of life ahead of her following her sentence and I would hope that she could live it purposefully."

Critics contend that it was unethical of Kemp to hug Guyger and give her the Bible. One group asked for a judicial misconduct investigation, and some activists have said the hug took the focus off justified anger at a police killing.

Jean's death drew widespread attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.

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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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Guyger, 31, had just worked a long shift and was still in her uniform when she entered Jean's apartment and shot the 26-year-old accountant, who grew up in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia. She testified that she had mistaken his fourth-floor apartment for her own, which was directly underneath his, and that she thought he was an intruder.

After Guyger was sentenced and the jury left the courtroom, Jean's brother, Brandt Jean, was allowed to address Guyger directly from the witness stand. He told her he forgave her and that Botham would have wanted her to devote her life to Christianity before the two shared a tearful embrace. Soon after that, Kemp walked over to the defense table to speak with Guyger, who she said went through a "marked change" after the verdict.

Kemp said that Guyger asked twice if she could hug her as well and, after a moment's hesitation, the judge wrapped her arms around the former police officer.

"Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not," said Kemp, who is black. "And I don't understand the anger. And I guess I could say if you profess religious beliefs and you are going to follow them, I would hope that they not be situational and limited to one race only."

Kemp said she doesn't know "the state of Ms. Guyger's Christianity, if she's even a Christian." But she said she pointed Guyger to a Bible passage about God's love "so that she could recognize that, even given the fact that she murdered someone, God still loves her."

Last week, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a secular Wisconsin-based group that routinely files lawsuits challenging religious displays in government, said Kemp was proselytizing from the bench and filed a complaint with a Texas agency that investigates allegations of judicial misconduct.

Kemp defended her actions as appropriate Monday, saying they took place after the legal proceeding was over and were not part of the official trial record.

"I didn't do that from the bench," she said. "I came down to extend my condolences to the Jean family and to encourage Ms. Guyger because has a lot of life to live."

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