- Amber Guyger was sentenced to 10 years after being found guilty of murdering Botham Jean.
- Guyger thought she was entering her own apartment in 2018 when she shot and killed Jean, whom she believed to be an intruder. She was actually entering Jean’s apartment, which was on the floor above.
- Jean’s brother, Brandt, spoke at her sentencing and said he forgives her and wishes no ill towards her. He then got up and hugged her.
- The judge in the case, Tammy Kemp, also hugged Guyger and gave her a Bible.
Amber Guyger was convicted of murdering Brandt Jean’s brother, Botham Jean. During her sentencing, he asked to give Guyger a hug, igniting an online debate about the criminal justice system and forgiveness.
Guyger, an ex-Dallas Police Officer, was sentenced on Wednesday to ten years with a possibility of parole after five for killing Botham Jean in 2018. Guyger thought she was entering her own apartment, believing Jean to be an intruder when she shot him. She was actually at the apartment above, which belonged to Jean. He was sitting on his couch eating ice cream at the time.
Judge Kemp and Brandt Jean Hug Guyger
The maximum sentencing Guyger could have faced was 99 years behind bars, so many thought 10 years was lenient. On Wednesday night, some even protested in downtown Dallas. Brandt Jean, however, said he does not want Guyger to go to jail at all.
“I forgive you,” Botham Jean’s 18-year-old brother said at the sentencing, “and I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.”
“I personally want the best for you,” he added. “And I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail.”
He then requested to hug Guyger, who met him with open arms. Brandt Jean was not the only one to hug her during her sentencing. Judge Tammy Kemp, who oversaw the case, also hugged Guyger and gave her a bible.
People Praise Hug
These actions of radical sympathy generated a massive online conversation. “Forgiveness” trended on Twitter, and many were impressed by Brandt Jean’s words and actions.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called it a “powerful example of Christian love.”
Former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said, “grace prevailed.”
The Dallas Police Department said it showed “a spirit of forgiveness, faith and trust.”
Others Criticize the Moment
There were others, however, who thought that Brandt Jean requesting a hug was okay, but Judge Kemp giving one was more shocking.
“This family is amazing,” reporter Brooke Thomas said about Brandt Jean, before switching topics to the judge. “This part made my jaw drop…None of this has been the ending I expected after a racist killer was convicted and sentenced to prison.”
Thomas also mentioned text messages that prosecutors brought up during Guyger’s sentencing. In the messages, Guyger made a joke about the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and other disrespectful comments about black police officers.
Reporter Jemele Hill said that Brandt Jean can choose to grieve on his terms, but said the judge’s hug was “unacceptable.”
While others thought the whole situation sent a troubling message about the way people of color are treated in comparison to white people.
CNN commentator and author Keith Boykin said it sent the idea that “white women’s lives are valuable. Black men’s lives are not.”
Activist Deray Mckesson said he would not want his family to “forgive or hug anyone in these circumstances.”
Others questioned if the criminal justice system would have treated Bothman Jean differently if the tables were turned.
See what others are saying: (Dallas Morning Star) (NPR) (NBC Dallas-Fort Worth)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.