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Tulsa cop’s manslaughter trial met with added security, community tension

Paris Burris / Red Dirt Report
People walk into the Tulsa County Courthouse Monday ahead of the trial for Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby, who faces up to life in prison for a first-degree manslaughter charge in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher in September 2016.
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TULSA, Okla. – Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby was absent Monday as 70 prospective jurors were questioned as to whether or not they could remain impartial during her highly anticipated manslaughter trial.

Shelby is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the heat of passion for fatally shooting Terence Crutcher on Sept. 16. If found guilty, she faces a minimum of four years up to a life sentence.

Crutcher’s death garnered national media attention amid heightened racial tension and ridged community-police relations in the wake of the deadly shooting.

Shelby, who is white, told “60 Minutes” correspondents that she “never wanted to kill anyone” and that she had no choice but to shoot the unarmed Crutcher, who was black. She did not give interviews to local media outlets.

District Attorney’s Office Spokeswoman Sally Van Schenck briefs media members before the trial for Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby, who faces up to life in prison for a first-degree manslaughter charge in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher in September 2016. (Paris Burris / Red Dirt Report)

The Black Lives Matter movement has been active in the Tulsa community since the shooting, with representatives holding several rallies and marches to demand justice in the case.

After filling out two questionnaires about their knowledge of the case and personal background information, 43 of the potential jurors were also questioned in the courtroom by District Judge Doug Drummond.

The Tulsa County Courthouse had extra security measures Monday, including a metal detector outside of the courtroom. Photographers were told not to step past a line of blue tape that cordoned off a corner of the courtroom’s hallway.

Called into the courtroom in groups of six or seven, the jurors were asked to expand on their original answers in one of the questionnaires, which covered how the media and personal interactions may have influenced their opinion of the case prior to the trial.

Defense attorney Shannon McMurray arrives to the Tulsa County Courthouse ahead of the trial for Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby, who faces up to life in prison for a first-degree manslaughter charge in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher in September 2016. (Paris Burris / Red Dirt Report)

One juror told Drummond she recalled a customer of hers saying, when referring to Shelby, “That lady made a huge mistake.” Another juror said she had previously made a post on Twitter stating she “couldn’t believe something like this happened so close to home.”

Although all of the jurors questioned in court said they had heard about the case either through news media or social media in some way, knowledge of the case among jurors varied. One woman told Drummond she had followed the case since the beginning, while others said they hadn’t seen or read anything about the case since the initial news of it came out.

Regardless of their knowledge, Drummond’s questioning aimed to ensure each juror would remain unbiased and fair if selected to help reach a verdict in the trial.

Drummond granted the state’s request to excuse three people as jurors, citing one of the causes as a potential jurors being married to a reserve police officer.

However, Drummond denied the state’s request to excuse another juror for stating she was not sure if she could remain impartial because she has had “many” positive interactions with law enforcement.

The trial is set to continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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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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