*The shooting death of Botham Jean by a white Dallas police officer on September 6, 2018 sparked outrage and protests of yet another black man killed by police brutality.
With this year marking the second anniversary of Botham’s death, Investigation Discovery (ID) is airing the two-hour special “The Ballad of Botham Jean,” on Thursday, September 10 from 9-11 p.m. EDT/PDT. The episode is the second season opener of the IMPACT OF MURDER series.
In a recent EUR interview with Botham’s mother, Allison Jean, she reflected on the two years since her oldest son’s death, and candidly said, “I can tell you that I’m not okay. I have never experienced death of a close relative before. I thought after two years I would have been in a better place, but I find myself feeling a strong grief two years later as if it had just happened. Reality has now hit that he is not coming back. So, it’s a really, really tough time for me.”
“Faith in God has helped me,” Mrs. Jean continued. “So, the times when I feel low, I turn to God for strength – that’s what keeps me going.”
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“The Ballad of Botham Jean” chronicles how Botham was in his own apartment when off-duty police officer Amber Guyger shot and killed him. The officer claimed she thought the 26-year-old accountant was trespassing in her residence.
The tele-documentary features heart-wrenching interviews with Botham’s family members and with those who worked with the family to bring justice to Botham. A year after his killing, Guyger was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“She got a slap on the wrist with the 10 years she got,” Mrs. Jean told the EUR.
While it has been difficult to deal with Botham’s death, Mrs. Jean said it was important for her to be interviewed for the special episode.
“As much as it is painful to relive the loss of Botham, I want Botham’s name to be remembered forever and ever,” said Mrs. Jean, who is from St. Lucia. “I want his story to be told. I want his legacy to continue. I want everybody to know who he was, what he did, and what he could have done.”
Police brutality has been an issue in the black community for decades – with many officers never charged for a crime or if charged never convicted. Mrs. Jean takes some comfort in Guyger’s conviction.
“The days leading up to the trial, I prayed for a murder conviction because that’s what it was,” said Mrs. Jean. “Being convicted of murder was the right conviction.”
After the verdict, Botham’s younger brother, Brandt (18 at the time), embraced the officer. Looking back on that day in court, Mrs. Jean said, “My heart stopped. We never spoke about it (beforehand). We trained our (three) children (to be) Christians. We always spoke to them about forgiving one another, who we are as Christians, and what God wants of us.”
“I believe (Brandt) wanted to free himself from the anger, pain, and hurt he was enduring for a whole year,” said Mrs. Jean. “He dropped out of school and could not start college until the trial was over. He was carrying a heavy burden. I was very proud of him for doing that. He has more courage than I because I couldn’t do that.”
The African American community was not so forgiving. Black Twitter, many journalists, and many in the general community were brutal toward the Jean family for the hug. To add salt to the wound, after the conviction, the presiding judge, a black woman, stepped down from the bench and also embraced Guyger and even handed her a Bible. For many black Americans, both embraces amounted to slave and master behavior and many thought it went too far.
“I got off of social media for a while,” Mrs. Jean said in response to the backlash. “What black America doesn’t understand is that we’re not from black America. We’re from the Caribbean. Our orientation is different. We’re 90 percent black and don’t have to deal with racism over here. So, Brandt didn’t have racism, slavery, or anything like that on his mind.”
She added, “I think people are missing several major issues. This is an 18-year-old who lost his big brother. His role model. The person he went to when he wanted to share his secrets. The person he spent 2017 summer with, and he lost him in that brutal way.”
Mrs. Jean went on to say that she was afraid of what Brandt would have become if he did not do what was in his heart.
“As a parent, I was scared that Brandt would have turned on every white woman – that he would have taken revenge. He was angry over everything. He became closed and was always in his room. It was difficult for me to speak to him. So, when he opened his heart at the trial, it put me at ease. Could you imagine grieving the death of a son but at the same time concerned about the kids that are alive? I know what my family went through and whoever wants to talk can talk, I am just proud of Brandt, of what he did.”
The officer’s lawyers are appealing the conviction, claiming it was too harsh. They want a new punishment hearing and a lesser charge such as criminally negligent homicide. Mrs. Jean said the murder conviction was not enough.
“Her appeal is on the grounds of self-defense and I keep asking what was she defending? What was the threat? I’ve come to the conclusion that the threat was the color of his skin.”
At the writing of this story, protests continue across the United States demanding justice for recent cases of black men and women killed by police, which is upsetting to Mrs. Jean.
“What the documentary is showing is that even though there were protests for Botham, nothing much has changed,” she told the EUR. “The deaths or so many other murders of black men and women (by police) show no authorities are taking the lead for the importance of black lives.”
“The Ballad of Botham Jean” airs as a two-hour special as part of the IMPACT OF MURDER series on Investigation Discovery on Thursday, September 10 from 9-11 p.m. EDT/PDT.
Meanwhile, the Botham Jean Foundation has been set up by the family. For more information, please visit here.