Judge Tammy Kemp is pushing back against some of the backlash she received last week after she hugged former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger and gave her a Bible following her sentencing for the murder of Botham Jean.
“Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not,” Kemp told the Associated Press in an interview published Monday. “And I don’t understand the anger”
Kemp also said that Guyger was the first defendant to whom she ever gave a Bible, and that she did so because Guyger said she didn’t have one.
A nonprofit group had filed a complaint against the judge for giving the former officer a Bible and pointing her toward particular verses, saying it amounted to proselytizing.
“It violates a vital constitutional principle for a sitting judge to promote personal religious beliefs while acting in her official capacity,” the dom From Religion Foundation argued in its complaint to the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
“She was in a government courtroom, dressed in a judicial robe, with all of the imprimatur of the state, including armed law enforcement officers, preaching to someone who was quite literally a captive audience, and even instructing her on which bible verses to read!” the filing stated.
Kemp said she behaved fairly during the proceedings, according to the AP, and that she watched Guyger change for the better during the trial.
“She asked me if I thought that God could forgive her and I said, ‘Yes, God can forgive you and has,’” Kemp said.
“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 added. “Because she still has a lot of life ahead of her following her sentence and I would hope that she could live it purposefully.”
Guyger was sentenced to 10 years for the murder of Botham Jean, a black man she fatally shot last year after entering his apartment by mistake, believing it to be her own.
She will be eligible for parole in five years.
—Updated at 2:55 p.m.