After a tense nine hours of deliberations, a jury acquitted Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby of a first-degree manslaughter charge in the death of Terence Crutcher.
Jurors began deliberating about noon and the verdict was read about 9:50 p.m. Wednesday.
As soon as the judge finished reading the verdict, at least five jurors started crying. The judge’s bailiff gave a woman in the front row a box of tissues. She took one and handed it to a woman behind her who was wiping tears away with her fingers. Then the bailiff went and got more tissues for two other women and a man who were all crying, as well.
After the not guilty verdicts were announced, defense attorney Shannon McMurray reached around Shelby and hugged her waist. They left the courthouse without giving statements to reporters.
District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler pointed out that jurors deliberated carefully before delivering a verdict.
“I know that jury did what we ask them to do… that is American jurisprudence at its best,” he said.
About 30 minutes after the verdict was read, Tiffany Crutcher, Terence Crutcher’s sister, gave an emotional statement, saying her brother was murdered and Tulsa Police tried to cover it up.
She said a “cover-up was exposed” during the trial. Tiffany Crutcher also criticized police for not immediately providing care after he was shot.
Before the verdict was read, District Judge Doug Drummond told a packed courtroom: “I’m asking you to trust the system.”
Drummond also said: “This jury has worked very hard to come to a result. This was a very difficult case with lots of difficult issues.”
Some leaving the courtroom were visibly upset. Outside the courthouse, a crowd of about 100 had gathered. Some were seen holding signs in support of Betty Shelby. Others were angry and chanting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”
Outside the courthouse, about 40 to 50 Crutcher supporters erupted in chants of “no justice, no peace” as word of the verdict was announced.
Many in the crowd were tearful, including Rhonda Washington, a Tulsa African American and mother of two.
“I have a 20 year-old son who can barely leave the house because I’m so scared something could happen to him. It doesn’t matter that he’s been raised right,” she said. “It’s terrible to have to live in captivity and fear.”
Washington said she came to the courthouse to show her support for Crutcher but didn’t bring her kids because she was unsure of what to expect from the crowds.
Those gathered at the courthouse were peaceful.
Shortly after the initial reaction set in, it appeared that Tulsa County Sheriff’s deputies and a crowd of protesters tensely squared off on the west side of the courthouse, but the moment was brief.
About 30 minutes after the verdict, Mayor G.T. Bynum announced he and Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan would hold a press conference Thursday morning.
Bynum issued the following statement: “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.”
Gov. Mary Fallin issued a statement asking Oklahomans to respect the criminal justice system and the jurors who decided the case.
“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.”
The Rev. Ray Owens, Metropolitan Baptist Church, said the verdict was “so incredibly painful.”
“I’ve talked to a lot of people since the verdict came down,” he said.
“The most compelling was with my 15-year-old daughter, who asked, ‘Why is this happening?’
“I didn’t know what to say to her.
“I just can’t believe that we’re here again. I’m outraged,” he said.
“I remain pleased that my city, and especially the Crutcher family, have handled this with incredible grace and dignity.
“We have to find ways to express outrage This is tough.”
Owens said he heard no one talk about a violent reaction, but he did sense a mood change when the verdict came down.READ MORE from the Tulsa World.
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