Amber Guyger claims she mistook Botham Jean for an intruder after mistakenly entering his apartment instead of her own
The judge in the murder trial of a former Dallas police officer charged with shooting and killing a black neighbor has taken the rare step of sequestering the jury.
Former officer Amber Guyger, who is white, has told investigators in Texas she mistook Botham Jean, 26, for an intruder after she mistakenly entered his central Dallas apartment one floor above hers.
The shooting in September last year, one of a series of high-profile killings of unarmed black men and teens by white US police, sparked protests, particularly because prosecutors initially moved to charge Guyger, 31, with manslaughter, a charge that carries a lesser sentence.
In contrast to high-profile cases like the killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Philando Castile in Minnesota, Guyger shot Jean, an accountant who was a native of St Lucia, while she was off duty.
Before opening statements were to begin on Monday afternoon, Tammy Kemp, a state district court judge, sequestered the jury of four men and 12 women for the entirety of the trial, shielding them from outside influence and local news coverage.
Judges have moved away from sequestering juries because jurors find the isolation stressful and it may increase the likelihood of jurors dropping out, raising the chances of a mistrial, legal experts say. Some jurists fear sequestration may cause jurors to rush deliberations.
Sequestration is most common when there is heavy media coverage and heightened public interest.
Kemp denied a motion to exclude evidence from Guygers texts and phone calls and a motion for a mistrial from Guygers attorneys who claimed the Dallas district attorney, John Creuzot, defied a gag order by giving an interview about the case to a local TV station over the weekend.
The prosecutor Jason Hermus said he planned to display a photo of Jean in the courtroom as prosecutors make their case, to show that he was a living, breathing human being prior to this event.
The DAs office re-examined the case after the public protests and a grand jury in late November indicted the former police officer on murder charges, with the maximum punishment of life in prison.
Guyger, who had been on the force for over four years, walked into Jeans apartment after returning from a shift and was able to enter because Jeans door was slightly ajar, according to Texas law enforcement officials.
After the incident, she was placed on administrative leave and fired days later.
Guygers defense had pushed for a change of venue, arguing in court last week that media coverage had been so intense their defendant could not get a fair trial. Kemp denied that request.