The judge who hugged an ex-Dallas police officer after she was sentenced to prison for killing her neighbor said Monday the embrace was appropriate.
Judge Tammy Kemp also defended giving Amber Guyger a Bible because the trial had ended and the former officer told her she didn't know how to begin seeking God's forgiveness.
“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 walked over to Guyger shortly after Brandt Jean hugged and forgave her for fatally shooting his brother, Botham Jean, in his own apartment. The jury sentenced Guyger, who testified that she mistook Jean's apartment for her own and thought he was an intruder, to 10 years in prison last week.
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Guyger asked twice if Kemp could also hug her, the judge said, and Kemp obliged after a moment's hesitation. Kemp said she saw Guyger change during her trial and wants her to live a purposeful life.
Critics called Kemp's actions unethical and one group requested a judicial misconduct investigation. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a secular Wisconsin-based group that routinely files lawsuits challenging religious displays in government, filed a complaint saying Kemp was proselytizing from the bench.
Kemp contended she hugged Guyger after the legal proceeding was over, noting the interaction was 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 she has a lot of life to live.”
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Some activists also criticized the hugs for taking focus off anger at a police killing of an unarmed black man. Jean's mother, Allison, called for reform in the Dallas Police Department, telling "CBS This Morning" she did not want her son's actions to be "misconstrued as a complete forgiveness."
Kemp said she does not know if Guyger is Christian, but noted the former officer told her she didn't have a Bible. When Guyger asked if God could forgive her, Kemp said she answered, "Yes, God can forgive you, and has."
“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.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amber Guyger: Judge Tammy Kemp defends hugging, giving Bible