A man asked a judge if he could hug his brother's killer during her sentencing Wednesday.
Brandt Jean,18, said he wished Amber Guyger, 31, nothing but the best. Holding back tears, he asked the presiding judge if he could hug the woman convicted of murdering his brother.
"I don't know if this is possible," he says in a video posted by WFAA-TV's Mike Leslie, "but can I give her a hug, please? Please?"
The former Dallas police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for fatally shooting a black neighbor in his home. Guyger said she thought she had walked into her own apartment and mistook Botham Jean for an intruder. Guyger, who was in uniform when she fatally shot Botham Jeana year ago as he ate a bowl of ice cream, could have faced a sentence as high as 99 years.
Guyger's defense team was impressed with Brandt Jean's unexpected request to hug the woman convicted of murdering his brother.
"He showed with his grace and forgiveness how we should heal, and I hope that people who were upset by the verdict will follow his example," defense attorney Toby Shook told NBC News.
Jean's mother, Allison, said her son's actions shouldn't be misinterpreted as the family "relinquishing responsibility." There's still a lot to be done by the Dallas Police Department, the Texas Rangers and the city of Dallas, she said.
"What Brandt did was to cleanse his heart towards Amber," she told"CBS This Morning." "I do not want it to be misconstrued as a complete forgiveness of everybody."
Theodore M. Shaw, director of theCenter for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said the interaction between family and defendant was very unusual for a sentencing proceeding.
"My first reaction was probably a reaction a lot of black folks are having; often African Americans are more forgiving of others that are in a similar situation," he said. "If you just changed the color of the actors and have the same facts, I think you’d see a very different reaction at a sentencing."
A similar courtroom scene played out in May 2015, when families of the victims of the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, told mass murderer Dylann Roof that they had forgiven him.
"I forgive you. You took something really precious away from me," said Nadine Collier, daughter of Ethel Lance, one of the nine church members killed."But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul. It hurts me, it hurts a lot of people, but God forgives you, and I forgive you."
Civil rights advocates shared their opinions of Wednesday's sentencing online as the hashtag#Forgiveness began trending on Twitter.
"I have preached #forgiveness for 25 years, BUT using the willingness of Black people to forgive as an excuse to further victimize Black people is SINFUL," tweeted Cornell William Brooks, professor of the practice of public leadership and social justice at the Harvard Kennedy School.
I have preached #forgiveness for 25 years, BUT using the willingness of Black people to forgive as an excuse to further victimize Black people is SINFUL.
America should ask Black people forgiveness for serially asking African Americans to forgive sanctioned #PoliceBrutality. pic.twitter.com/OUJzoEYgr0
Rev. Cornell William Brooks (@CornellWBrooks) October 2, 2019