by: Preston Jones, Ashli Lincoln, Lynn Casey, Jonathan McCall Updated:
- A jury found Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby not guilty of manslaughter Wednesday.
- Shelby was charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher
A jury found a Tulsa police officer not guilty of first degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher.
The jury delivered their verdict after nearly 10 hours of deliberation starting just after noon Wednesday.
Officials and people connected to the case responded to the jury's decision.
The defense had moved for a mistrial in the case, but a judge denied it. The judge also denied the jury's request to explain how they came to their conclusion.
Mayor GT Bynum released this statement:
Wednesday morning people lined up to get into the courtroom:
Shelby shot Crutcher in September of 2016. Her defense argued the shooting was justified.
After two days of jury selection and several days of testimony, the jurors heard closing arguments to Wednesday morning. The jury received 32 instructions before deliberations.
The charge she faced, first degree manslaughter, which is in the heat of passion, requires a jury to find that: the death of a human, caused by defendant, was not excusable or justifiable and was in the heat of passion at the time of death.
According to the instructions, the jury had to consider charges based on what happened at the time of the shooting, not after.
The state focused on the "why" questions in the case for their closing arguments. District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said the jury needed to ask:
- Why two officers had guns, while another did not
- Why Shelby put away her gun after the shooting
- Was Crutcher reaching for something
- Why Shelby said she had "never been so scared in [her] life".
- Why Shelby saw dash cam video before her homicide detective interview
- Why officers told her not to talk on the scene
- Why officers were not asking what happened
Kunzweiler said the defense used the spotlight to blame him, and, though he could handle it, he asked the jury not to be distracted and focus only on what happened Sept. 16.
Defense attorneys brought out the door of Crutcher's SUV during their closing, said the DA filed charges too quickly and called his actions hypocritical during the trial.
They said the DA uses law enforcement in court, but criticizes them, failing to educate the jury on what police officers do, that the jury couldn't judge on their own.
Attorneys said Kunzweiler fought 911 callers' tapes in the trial because they showed others feared Crutcher that day.
They also argued that if Shelby waited to shoot, he could have theoretically killed her. They reiterated that Crutcher ignored repeated commands. While death is tragic, they argued, it is not always a crime.
Kunzweiler's case was criticized, the defense saying all the state could do was say Shelby was angry while she challenged a course.
The morning after the verdict, Black Lives Matter Oklahoma shared this statement:
Once again, an American court has declared that the condition of being black is a capital offense.
Once again, an American court has declared that a black person engaging in everyday behavior is a mortal threat and deserves to be shot down in the street and left to bleed out like a rabid animal.
Once again, an American court has declared that ordinary standards of justice and the rule of law do not apply if the subject is an African American.
Once again, an American court has declared that a police officer has the power and authority to act with impunity as judge, jury and executioner.
To Betty Jo Shelby, we say that a jury may have acquitted you but we recognize that you violated your sworn oath to serve and protect.
Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma chapter of Black Lives Matter, stated “Just like the Tulsa of 1921, there is no justice to be had for black people in Tulsa in 2017. Our deepest condolences go to the family of Terrence Crutcher and to the thousands of Tulsans who have to come to grips with the fact that the Tulsa Police Department claims the right to end the life of an unarmed, unaggressive citizen based upon the color of his skin. The irony is not lost on us that this verdict comes almost 96 years to the day after white Tulsans who felt threatened by a black man murdered more than 300 African American citizens, injured hundreds of others, raged, rioted and rampaged and ultimately dropped aerial bombs, rendering the formerly thriving Black Wall Street area of Tulsa’s Greenwood community a smoldering ruin.
“Governor Fallin and Mayor Bartlett called for the people of Tulsa to be calm in the face of this miscarriage of justice,” Ms. Dickerson said, “but what they really ought to be asking for is justice for Terrence Crutcher and a judicial system that provides equal protection under the law. We will not tolerate having one set of laws for people of color and a different set of laws and standards for the police. Changes must be made.”
Black Lives Matter - OK demands:
· Creation of a citizens’ advisory commission that will be charged with the investigation of police policies and procedures, identifying elements of racial and economic bias, and making recommendations to the Tulsa Police Department to ameliorate this bias. These changes will include appropriate policies, officer training and oversight to diminish the likelihood of future incidents in which an officer can shoot an unarmed citizen with impunity and to create systemic justice and limit the influence of personal bias on the part of police officers.
· That Officer Betty Shelby immediately be dismissed from the Tulsa Police Department.
· That Tulsa PD end the practice of placing police officers who shoot unarmed persons on suspension with full pay and benefits while they await trial.
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