Judge Tammy Kemp defended her decision to give ex-cop and convicted murderer Amber Guyger a hug and a bible in the moments after the conclusion of last week’s trial, in her first public interview after the event.
“Following my own convictions, I could not refuse that woman a hug. I would not,” Kemp told the Associated Press. “And I don’t understand the anger. And I guess I could say if you profess religious beliefs and you are going to follow them, I would hope that they not be situational and limited to one race only.”
“She asked me if I thought that God could forgive her and I said, ‘Yes, God can forgive you and has,’” she added.
In the moments after Brandt Jean, the younger brother of Botham Jean, forgave Guyger in a now-viral moment, Kemp took time to speak to both Jean’s family and Guyger. Kemp gave Guyger the Bible, saying “you just need a tiny mustard seed of faith. You start with this,” before giving her a hug and continuing, “you haven’t done as much as you think you have, and you can be forgiven. You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”’
JUDGE EMBRACES GUYGER: Judge Kemp reads the bible to #AmberGuyger and hugs the convicted murderer after her sentencing.
— Court TV (@CourtTV) October 3, 2019
Kemp’s provision of a bible prompted a complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a pro-atheist advocacy group, who sent a letter to the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct on Thursday about the interaction. Co-presidents Don Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote that “here, compassion crossed the line into coercion. And there can be few relationships more coercive than a sentencing judge in a criminal trial and a citizen accused and convicted of a crime.”
But Kemp defended the display of religiosity during her recent interview, telling the AP that she was entirely motivated by a desire to prevent Guyger from falling into depression.
“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 said. “Because she still has a lot of life ahead of her following her sentence and I would hope that she could live it purposefully.”