Amber Guyger trial: Overflow crowd on first day of jury selection, 410 fill out questionnaires

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Jury selection began Friday in the murder trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger.

Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean a year ago to the day jury selection started, mistaking him for an intruder in her Dallas apartment. But she was actually at his apartment, one floor above hers.

About 4,000 summons were mailed out, officials said. Hundreds of jurors showed up Friday to the Frank Crowley Courthouse, more than the central jury room could hold. The room hit capacity at about 600, with another approximately 200 people seated in the courthouse cafeteria.

Fire Marshal Robert De Los Santos shut down the central jury room briefly due to the overflow crowd. Judge Tammy Kemp explained to reporters they could not initially observe the process -- because all seats were taken.

“We've seen more people here than I've ever seen in a courtroom responding to jury duty,” said Lee Merritt, Jean family attorney.

By the end of the day: 410 completed jury questionnaires, 219 had been excused for various reasons, 198 were sent home but could be called back if necessary.

The questionnaires will determine how many of the 410 are called back next week for individual review.

“As we look at it, this is the start of the trial. It stats today, so this is going to be the attorneys very first time to make an appeal to the potential jurors,” said Daryl Washington, Jean family attorney.  

Guyger sat at a table with her attorneys facing the panel of potential jurors on Friday.

Attorney Russell Wilson, not involved in the case, handled officer involved shootings as a prosecutor and explained why Guyger was in attendance.

“Generally, the defendant – it’s their life that’s at stake,” Wilson said. “They may have a feeling one way or another. Jury selection is not an exact science.”

At the conclusion of jury selection, the judge will determine if the trial will be moved out of Dallas County. Guyger’s attorneys have formally requested a change of venue, claiming that an impartial jury cannot be seated in Dallas.

Wilson thinks the trial will stay in Dallas County.

“I believe, absolutely, that you can seat a jury in Dallas County that can be fair and impartial hear the evidence that is admitted at trial and render a verdict,” Wilson said.

Those who are called back will return to the courthouse next Friday. It’s generally expected about half of the 410 will return. Those people will be questioned by both defense attorneys and prosecutors in an effort to find 12 jurors and four alternates.