After a scant nine hours of deliberation, a jury returned a verdict of not-guilty in the manslaughter trial against Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer Betty Jo Shelby. Shelby was on trial for the fatal shooting of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher on a highway after his car broke down on September 16, 2016. The case is another in a series of high-profile cases that many point to as evidence of white police officers callously killing black suspects without fear of repercussion. In her defense, Betty Jo Shelby spoke of how she felt in fear for her life and that she had never been so scared before.
According to the Tulsa World, jurors retired for deliberations at noon and the verdict was read at 9:50 p.m. that evening. As the verdict was read, several of the jurors broke down into tears. After she was found not guilty of murdering Terence Crutcher, Shelby received a brief hug from her defense attorney, Shannon McMurray. The pair left the courthouse shortly afterward without giving a statement to the media.
The mayor of Tulsa issued a statement with Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan the morning after the verdict was read. The pair urged calm and asked that people respect that the justice system had run its course.
“After considering days of testimony and undergoing its own deliberation, the jury has spoken. I appreciate the jurors’ service to our community and respect their verdict. But this verdict does not alter the course on which we are adamantly set. It does not change our recognition of the racial disparities that have afflicted Tulsa historically. It does not change our work to institute community policing measures that empower citizens to work side by side with police officers in making our community safer. And no one has been calling for the resources to implement community policing more actively over a longer period of time than the men and women of our Tulsa Police Department. So we are moving forward together — Tulsans from all parts of the city, police officers and everyday citizens — with a unified purpose to make this a better place for all of us.”
The governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, also issued a statement echoing the need for calm and respect.
“Those who disagree with the verdict have the right to express their opinions. I just ask that they do so in a peaceful manner,” Fallin said. “I appeal to Tulsans and others to remain calm. Our thoughts and prayers should be with the Terence Crutcher and Betty Shelby families during this difficult time.”
Meanwhile, the family of Terence Crutcher were matter-of-fact on their opinion of the verdict. Terence Crutcher’s father, the Reverend Joey Crutcher, was adamant in his opinion that Betty Shelby got away with murder. He pointedly asked the jury what they could have possibly been thinking about when the evidence pointed to Shelby’s guilt.
Tiffany Crutcher, Terence’s twin sister, was no less terse in her statement. She initially said that the verdict was a tough pill to swallow, especially given the pertinent facts of the investigation; those were that Terence Crutcher did not pose a threat to Betty Shelby, that his hands were up, and that he did not charge or otherwise move aggressively toward the police officer.
Tiffany was visibly shaken as she spoke about the cover-up that she believes was exposed as a result of her brother’s killing.
“Betty Shelby murdered my brother, and after she murdered my brother all of the officers involved with the Tulsa Police Department covered for her. What I got out of this case was that a cover-up was exposed.”
Tiffany concluded by saying that she would not rest until the Tulsa Police Department is reformed and the corruption that she sees there is stamped out. “I promise you I won’t rest until we break that chain.”
[Featured Image by Sue Ogrocki/AP Images]