May 22, 2017 Before her acquittal, cop who killed Terence Crutcher insisted his actions dictated hers
Last September 2016, I blogged about Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby’s killing of unarmed Terence Crutcher. Video footage of the incident is here.
Subsequently, officer Shelby was brought to trial on a manslaughter charge for her killing of Terence Crutcher. After around nine hours of deliberations, the jury acquitted Shelby.
The trial judge filed the foreperson’s post-verdict three-page memorandum (here is the full text) that says among many other things: ” “Many on the jury could never get comfortable with the concept of Betty Shelby being blameless for Mr. Crutcher’s death.” The jury still acquitted officer Shelby, with the standard for a conviction in the United States always being proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The foreperson’s memorandum provides valuable insights for any criminal defense lawyer into the thought, deliberation, and group process of jurors.
Stunningly, even before the trial date, Shelby insisted on 60 Minutes that Crutcher’s actions dictated her actions. Shelby asserted in her investigative interview with the police that she was a drug recognition expert and suspected Crutcher was on PCP. Determining whether a person is under the influence of a particular drug is a questionable area of police expertise. Even though PCP was found in Crutcher’s system, that does not automatically say the extent to which he was at the time influenced by PCP, if at all, nor do police get free reign to shoot dead those using PCP.
As a criminal defense lawyer, it is hard for me to get upset over this nor other acquittals unless racial bias influences the acquittal. Here, Shelby is white and Crutcher was black, but that by itself does not establish the presence nor absence of racial bias in causing Shelby to shoot Crutcher nor the jury to acquit Shelby.
Shelby used excessive and deadly force against Crutcher. The claim is common that police must make split-second decisions. However, one of the very reasons for the need to shrink our overgrown criminal justice system is to reduce the number of police who use bad judgment in making those split-second decisions, whether or not Shelby here really needed to be making any split second decision at all.