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Published on February 26, 2024
Manslaughter Trial Begins for Former Williamson County Deputies in Death of Javier AmblerSource: Austin Police Department

The high-profile manslaughter trial of two former Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies accused in the death of Javier Ambler kicked off this Monday in Austin. The former deputies, James Johnson and Zachary Camden, face charges over the March 2019 incident where stun guns were used on Ambler during an arrest that was captured on camera, as reported by KXAN.

Before the start of the trial, the Travis County District Attorney's Office sought to introduce a second charge against Johnson for misdemeanor assault, which was authorized by a grand jury but blocked by a judge from being added to the case. Jury selection for the trial was held last week, with almost 100 individuals called to the Travis County Courthouse. No Black jurors were selected for the trial, with only one Black alternate juror appointed. Ambler, who died in the incident, was Black, as per KXAN.

John Teakell, a criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, weighed in on the process that the opening statements will set the stage for what's to come in the trial. "The prosecution will say, 'Here's what this case is about, here's the evidence that we anticipate that you will see and hear, and here's what we intend to prove. Same thing for the defense," Teakell explained, according to CBS Austin.

On the all-white jury, Teakell conveyed that the exclusion of two Black potential jurors was not deemed discriminatory by the judge, likely because other issues arose with them. "When you have jury selection, if someone, regardless of their race or color says 'I cannot follow the law,' or 'I've already determined in my own mind,' or 'I'm gonna have trouble sitting through this process because I'm probably gonna side with law enforcement just because,' then they can be excluded," Teakell said.

The trial stems from an episode in which Ambler was being filmed for the reality TV show "Live PD" and was chased by deputies after failing to dim his headlights, leading to a fatal encounter. Adding to the complexity of the case, footage of the incident captured by "Live PD" was never aired and subsequently destroyed.