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.
Here is an earlier version of this story.
UPDATE: Jurors are returning to the courtroom to deliver their verdict in the first-degree manslaughter trial of Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby.
Deliberations began shortly after noon Wednesday. Jurors heard testimony over five days during the trial in District Judge Doug Drummond's courtroom
First-degree manslaughter carries a punishment between four years to life in prison.
UPDATE: Jurors in Betty Shelby's manslaughter trial sent their first note to the judge after about 6½ hours of deliberation Wednesday.
Jurors asked District Judge Doug Drummond how they will deliver their verdict and if they can give a statement on how the verdict was reached.
Drummond said the jury can render its verdict in open court but cannot give a statement while doing so. However, he said he will tell the jury they can speak publicly if they wish after they're done.
Drummond also rejected a defense request from earlier in the afternoon seeking a mistrial.
Shelby's attorneys moved for a mistrial, citing their belief that prosecutorial misconduct occurred during closing arguments.
Defense attorney Shannon McMurray said prosecutors had misrepresented the testimony of one her expert witnesses and evidence presented by that witness.
During his closing remarks Wednesday morning, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray pointed to a screengrab from the video that McMurray showed the jury as indicative of the defense misrepresenting Crutcher's behavior. He said the image shows Crutcher as he was five seconds after being shot, not at the time Shelby fired her gun as McMurray told the jury.
The jury began deliberations at 12:05 p.m.
Below is an earlier version of this story.
The jury in Betty Shelby's manslaughter trial began deliberations about noon Wednesday after hearing the defense call the district attorney a "hypocrite" for prosecuting her and the state's reply that an outside investigation was necessary because Shelby's police interview was a "setup job" to shield her from a criminal case.
Jurors and a packed courtroom of spectators listened to about three hours of closing arguments from District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, defense attorney Shannon McMurray and Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray that called into question not only Shelby's account of the Sept. 16 shooting of Terence Crutcher, but also the Tulsa Police Department's investigation into her actions and, as Gray put it, the "different" way the agency treats officers who fatally shoot people.
The shooting garnered national attention and outrage because the footage released Sept. 19 showed that Shelby, who is white, shot Crutcher, who was black and unarmed, and did not render aid as he bled to death in the street.
Two other officers — Jason Roy and Sandra Dunn — who exited their vehicles after the shot was fired attempted to provide medical assistance, but that did not occur until at least two minutes after Crutcher fell to the ground.
Shelby, 43, was charged Sept. 22 with first-degree manslaughter under two theories: that she shot Crutcher, 40, in the heat of passion, and that the shooting was an unreasonable response to her belief Crutcher was in the process of committing misdemeanor offenses of public intoxication and obstruction.
"There's not one single witness who observed Mr. Crutcher make any type of aggressive movement toward Betty Shelby," Kunzweiler said, mentioning Crutcher had a prosthetic right eye.
He questioned why Shelby's fellow officers testified about telling her not to speak about what took place before speaking to an attorney.
"They all know it's a bad shoot immediately," Kunzweiler said.
He also asked the jury whether it was more plausible that Crutcher was "simply pivoting and putting his hands on the car" at the time of the shooting, saying Shelby had already looked into the passenger's side of the SUV and did not see anything that caught her eye.
During McMurray's remarks, she showed the jury a still image from helicopter video of the shooting that she said showed Crutcher reaching into his stopped SUV in the 2300 block of East 36th Street North at the time Shelby fired a single shot. The statements, along with a short anecdote she gave about Martin Luther King Jr., prompted groans from Crutcher's family and supporters, who were told to quiet down as McMurray spoke.
"Our officers will continue to have to make split-second decisions so that we can all remain safe and so we can all go home and so they can go home," McMurray said, asking for an acquittal on both theories of manslaughter.
She said the PCP found in Crutcher's system, along with information she later learned about his legal history, only confirmed Shelby's on-scene analysis that he was a threat, but she said him being unarmed made Shelby feel worse, not better, about shooting him.
But as soon as McMurray took her seat at the defense counsel's table, Gray said "I honestly can't believe" she represented Crutcher's position in the still image as being the reason Shelby shot Crutcher, who showed no weapon and did not threaten her.
He told the jury the timestamp on the image is five seconds after the shot was fired, saying the photo instead matched the testimony of Shelby's backing officer, Tyler Turnbough, who told the jury he deployed an electric current from his Taser twice because the first five-second round was not effective at getting Crutcher to comply.
"And they didn't think you noticed," Gray said of the discrepancy, presenting a photo that showed Crutcher's blood on the driver's side door as he talked. "The shot and Taser were simultaneous ... (Turnbough's testimony and the video footage) absolutely lines up. Don't let them get away with telling you something there's not." He said Shelby's account, Turnbough's testimony and that of Roy about the scene cannot simultaneously be true.
In about an hour of closing arguments, Gray disparaged the credibility of Shelby's testimony.
"She wouldn't look at me. She had her eyes looking at you," Gray said to jurors of Shelby's demeanor on the stand. "She would evade over and over and over again. She did not want to answer simple questions."
He reiterated that Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker showed Shelby the videos of the shooting before taking her official statement on Sept. 19 and also feeding Shelby's drug-recognition expert training into the investigation by asking her about it despite knowing the answer.
"It was a setup job. He admitted that," Gray told the jury. "He asked the question (about drug-recognition training) because he wanted to make sure that got in front of you."
McMurray spoke passionately as she expressed her anger over Kunzweiler having, as she put it, "the audacity" to suggest officers would lie to protect Shelby. She also emphasized her belief that District Attorney's Office investigator Doug Campbell is not credible because he lacks the training and experience to properly investigate police shootings.
Campbell wrote in his arrest affidavit that he felt Shelby became emotional and overreacted during the incident, which he testified was based on his observations in the Sept. 19 interview.
"Shame on him. You judge an officer at the time of the incident," McMurray said, calling Shelby an officer "in complete control" of her actions.
She said Kunzweiler was "a hypocrite" for prosecuting Shelby and attempting to criticize an entire agency in the process while depending on the same officers to help him obtain guilty verdicts and convictions in other cases.
McMurray asked the jury to remember that three citizens testified about calling 911 to report Crutcher's behavior in the intersection as suspicious. Shelby was unaware of the reports when she encountered Crutcher and his SUV in the middle of the intersection while en route to an unrelated call.
The defense used a replica of the SUV driver's side door to demonstrate all the actions McMurray said Shelby believed Crutcher could have taken, including reaching for a gun.
Gray and Kunzweiler have said Shelby "guessed" Crutcher had a gun and fired at him too quickly without doing enough to figure out more information about his behavior.
"Terence Crutcher made those choices (to not comply,)" McMurray said. "Sad choices. Tragic choices." Of his death, she said, "It is tragic, but it doesn't mean it's a crime."
Gray said that Shelby's primary defense has been related to how police are trained to handle situations they perceive as dangerous. But he told jurors following such training doesn't mean no crime was committed.
"We think it's wrong to give officers special treatment. They don't," he said, referencing the defense.
When discussing the prosecution of Shelby, Gray said: "A bunch of officers have come out and said they're not happy with Steve Kunzweiler and they're not happy with me. And that's fine."
He said Shelby's testimony and her defense have put the blame for Crutcher's death on anyone available but herself, which was bolstered by her friends who wanted to protect her.
In response to a comment McMurray made about Crutcher taking a risk by being noncompliant, Gray said, "When you're a Tulsa Police officer and you shoot an unarmed man ... that's the chance you take."