The Betty Shelby Manslaughter Trial

In September of 2016, Terrance Crutcher was shot and killed by Tulsa Police officer Betty Shelby. I wrote about it for Fault Lines, stating that based on the trial of Robert Bates, I was willing to grant some leeway and give the prosecutor’s office the benefit of the doubt. The trial started last week, and will be winding up any day now. It will be interesting.

Assistant District Attorney Kevin Grey opened with the fact that Shelby was a drug recognition expert (DRE) and believed that Crutcher was either high or mentally ill.* Grey noted that Crutcher was shot by Shelby at the same time another officer fired a Taser at him, and that Shelby broke down crying during the police interview.

Defense attorney Shannon McMurray stated that the investigation went way to fast, that Shelby did her job and that her actions were reasonable under the circumstances. McMurray noted that Shelby, in addition to being a DRE, was a member of the dive team, was an EMT, and was a trainer for the department.

The trial didn’t start out very well for the prosecution. While presenting officers as witnesses to establish his case in chief, the defense kept at the officers. One stated that he would have fired his weapon too, if he knew then what he knew now. After the shooting, Shelby said:

Why wouldn’t he listen? Why wouldn’t he follow my commands?

Officer Dean Montgomery, a member of TPD’s critical response team, said that Shelby was responding normally to a critical situation. He’s right, it is a normal response. So is crying and being upset–you’ve just shot someone, it’s emotional.

With everything else, I don’t see how the prosecution is going to win this case. You’ve got a non-responsive male reaching into a vehicle’s open window,** You’ve got other officers saying that they would shoot too.

You’ve got a homicide detective from Tulsa PD testifying that that the way District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler announced charges against Shelby made him “angry” and “disrespected.” You’ve got the defendant on the interview video saying:

I shot him in the side. I thought he was gonna kill me. I’ve never been so scared.

This was bolstered when Shelby took the stand in her own defense.

If you hesitate and delay, then you die.

and

I fired my gun at Mr. Crutcher because I was fearing for my life.

It’s hard to convict a police officer for murder or manslaughter. It’s even harder when your case is crap and likely should not have been filed to begin with.***

Closing arguments are today.


*Crutcher had PCP in his system when he was shot.

**Original media reports indicated that the window was rolled up, but that was incorrect.

***I am still of the general opinion that it is better to have a trial and let a jury decide the issues.

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6 thoughts on “The Betty Shelby Manslaughter Trial

  1. I have to disagree with you on this post. I am glad to see you back online. I came here via the link on SimpleJustice

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    1. I’m glad to see you here too. What part do you disagree with, it you don’t mind me asking?

      Oh, and as of a little after 10:00 PM, the jury came back with a not guilty verdict.

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  2. I took your comment about the case being crap and shouldn’t have been filed, to be a defense of Betty. On reread It looks like the way it was presented at trial was crap. I don’t know if the DA could have managed the witnesses better. It does make me wonder if he didn’t try real hard to win. Couldn’t have picked a worse week to put a cop on trial.

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    1. I’m not defending Betty, per se. She did what she was trained to do. The problem is that we are creating a culture of fear in our officers, where it is somehow acceptable to shoot an unarmed citizen who is non-compliant. In 2015, 20% of officer-involved shootings were with unarmed subjects. That’s too high.

      We have got to change the mindset of officers, and we have to do that through training.

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