DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Freedom of Religion Foundation has filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct regarding the actions of the judge in the Amber Guyger murder trial.
Following Guyger’s sentencing to 10 years in prison, State District Judge Tammy Kemp gave her a bible, hugged her and prayed with the former police officer, now convicted of the murder of Botham Jean.
The organization says it protects the Constitutional principals of the separation of church and state.
The complaint states:
We write to raise your awareness of Judge Kemp’s actions at the close of the trial — during which she gifted a Christian bible, instructing the convicted criminal on how to read the bible and which passages to pay attention to, and witnessing to that convicted murderer. These proselytizing actions overstepped judicial authority, were inappropriate and were unconstitutional.
Courtroom video shows that after the sentencing and the victim impact statement, Judge Kemp left the courtroom, then returned holding her personal bible. She walked over to Amber Guyger at the defense table and proceeded to preach.
The foundation acknowledges this was an emotional moment following Botham’s Jean’s younger Brandt delivering a heart-felt victim impact statement, telling Guyger, “I forgive you. I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. I love you just like anyone else. I am not going to say I hope you die just like my brother did… I personally want the best for you. I don’t even want you to go to jail… because that’s exactly what Botham would want to. Again I love you, as a person.”
The foundation said Judge Kemp’s compassion with regard to the bible crossed the line into coercion.
CBS 11 asked Dallas County District Attorney John Cruezot if Judge Kemp’s gesture was a violation of court procedure, policy or protocol.
He said, “If anyone complained, I would do everything I could to support the appropriateness of it. I can’t tell you I’ve done the same exact thing, but I have spoken to defendants, have I given them a hug, perhaps. Not given a bible, that’s not me, but I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate about what she did, and I would support that, if anyone tried to file a complaint, I would do my best to intercede and protect her.”
CBS 11 reached out to Judge Kemp’s office on Thursday afternoon for comment, but she declined.
In a questionnaire she filled out for the Dallas Morning News when she was running for re-election last year, Judge Kemp wrote, “A judge’s temperament should begin and end with respect for all parties involved.”
READ THE FULL COMPLAINT HERE
Plano-based First Liberty Institute (a voice for religious freedom) is countering the complaint filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Hiram Sasser, General Counsel to First Liberty Institute released the following statement:
“FFRF is protesting Judge Kemp rather than joining the rest of the nation celebrating the compassion and mercy Judge Kemp demonstrated. We should all be thankful the law allows Judge Kemp’s actions and we stand with her and will gladly lead the charge in defending her noble and legal actions.”
Jeremy Dys of the First Liberty Foundation added, “The very fact that someone would complain about a judge demonstrating her humanity and trying to provide a measure of mercy and kindness to a sentenced felon now, I think it despicable here.”