Jury Gets Shelby Case

May 16, 2017

Credit File photo

Jurors are deliberating in the manslaughter trial of an Oklahoma police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man last year.

The jury got the case shortly after noon Wednesday. They must decide whether Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby committed a crime Sept. 16 when she killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher.

Shelby could spend between four years to life in prison if she's convicted.

District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler spent just more than an hour restating the state's case, telling jurors have every reason to look at the evidence and ask why: Why officers responding to the shooting didn't immediately ask what happened. Why the second officer on scene told Shelby to holster her gun after she shot Crutcher. Why Shelby was shown video of the shooting before she gave a statement.

Shannon McMurray told the jury her client responded appropriately to a "rapidly evolving, tense and stressful situation." McMurray said while Crutcher's death is a tragedy, it's not a crime.

McMurray went after Kunzweiler in closing arguments. Drawing snickers from the Crutcher family and friends, McMurray quoted Martin Luther King Junior, telling jurors, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

McMurray told the jury Kunzweiler passed over a more experienced investigator for the case and acted out of fear when he charged Shelby only six days after she shot Crutcher. McMurray said Shelby had to react in split seconds in a stressful situation and said jurors are to judge her based on that, not her emotions while recalling the shooting three days later for a homicide investigator.

Shelby has said she shot Crutcher when he reached into his car window because she thought he was going for a gun. Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray told jurors if they study the police videos, they'll see Crutcher's arm went into the window five seconds after he was shot and only because electricity from another officer's Taser was cut off, allowing Crutcher to slump over against his SUV.

Gray also attacked Shelby's testimony, saying she never looked at him and struggled to answer his questions while other officers who testified had no problems on the stand, even if they may not like the DA's office right now.