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Jurors questioned about race, police force at Tulsa cop’s manslaughter trial

Paris Burris / Red Dirt Report
Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby is escorted out of the Tulsa County Courthouse Tuesday after the second day of her manslaughter trial.
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TULSA, Okla. — About 28 prospective jurors in the manslaughter trial for Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby were grilled with questions surrounding race and its role in police use of force Tuesday during the second day of the controversial trial.

Shelby, 43, is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the heat of passion for fatally shooting Terence Crutcher, 40, on Sept. 16. The case has garnered national media attention and if found guilty, Shelby faces a minimum of four years up to a life sentence.

Seventy prospective jurors were questioned Monday, and 17 of those jurors have been released from serving on the trial for legal reasons. Of the 53 that remain, 28 have been set aside as a tentative pool from which the final 12 will be chosen.

District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler questioned the pool of jurors in an attempt to what he referred to as “trying to get to know them better.” He questioned them about if they realized the weight of their role as officers of the court and whether they felt following the law was important.

Kunzweiler focused his questions on determining whether or not the jurors could remain impartial despite influences outside of the courtroom.

“I see (Shelby) as a person — not a uniform,” one juror said after she was asked whether someone’s title plays a role in their guilt or innocence.

“I hope,” another juror said after she was asked whether she could be unbiased during the trial. “I have a great admiration for our uniformed police officers … I pray for them daily.”

Defense Attorney Shannon McMurray addressed what she called the elephant in the room upon questioning jurors.

“This is a nationally covered case,” McMurray said. “Tensions are high. People are split.”

McMurray asked one juror if she felt race had anything to do with the decision made by Shelby, who is white, to shoot Crutcher, who was black.

Kunzweiler objected and District Judge Doug Drummond instructed McMurray to rephrase the question. After Kunzweiler objected again, Drummond called a brief conference with the attorneys.

McMurray instead questioned the same juror on whether she believed white police officers use excessive force against black citizens. The juror was torn, saying she believed it depended on the situation and its circumstances.

After about eight hours of jury selection, Drummond adjourned the court shortly before 6 p.m. The trial is set to continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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Paris Burris

Oklahoma City native Paris Burris started covering Tulsa news for Red Dirt Report in April 2017...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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