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Former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger Takes The Stand In Murder Trial

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A Dallas jury heard today from the white former police officer charged with killing her black neighbor. Amber Guyger took the stand in her own murder trial. She says she was on the wrong floor of her apartment complex and entered in John's apartment by mistake. From Dallas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Amber Guyger took the stand this morning to explain to the jury that she killed Botham Jean because she feared for her life when she entered his apartment and saw him standing there. Defense lawyer Toby Shook took Guyger through those fateful seconds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOBY SHOOK: First, tell the jury exactly how loud you said, let me see your hands.

AMBER GUYGER: And I'm saying, let me see your hands, let me see your hands.

SHOOK: What were you focused on?

GUYGER: Him.

SHOOK: Just him?

GUYGER: Yes.

GOODWYN: As Guyger and her lawyer stood in front of the witness stand, Shook played the role of Botham Jean.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHOOK: And then he began coming towards you?

GUYGER: Yes.

SHOOK: He came coming toward you. That's when you heard him speak, hey, hey, hey.

GOODWYN: But the main reason Guyger testified was so that the jury could see her showing remorse for what she'd done.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GUYGER: I feel like a piece of crap. And I ask God for forgiveness, and I hate myself every single day. I wish he was the one with the gun that killed me. I never wanted to take an innocent person's life. I am so sorry.

GOODWYN: At one point, Guyger became so distraught, the proceedings had to be delayed. But on cross-examination, prosecutor Jason Hermus emphasized that Guyger realized somebody was inside the apartment when she was still out in the hallway. She conceded she could hear him as she put her key in the lock. But she told Hermus that all she could think about was going inside and confronting the person she thought was an intruder.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JASON HERMUS: Could've backed away and let that door shut on its own.

GUYGER: I could have.

HERMUS: You could've done that?

GUYGER: Yes, sir.

HERMUS: You chose to pull your gun, to level it off and shoot at Mr. Jean.

GUYGER: I did do that.

HERMUS: That was your choice.

GUYGER: It was my choice.

HERMUS: Even though you could have backed off at least twice now to a position where you would have been more safe, and he would have been alive.

GUYGER: I could have.

GOODWYN: The case will turn on whether the jury finds Amber Guyger's actions reasonable, even if they were mistaken.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.