The former Tulsa police officer who fatally shot Terence Crutcher will have the case expunged from her record.
In yet another high profile police brutality case Betty Jo Shelby was acquitted and escaped life in prison for her actions on that led to the tragic death of 40-year-old Crutcher. And now, the crime essentially never took place.
Shelby’s defense attorney, Shannon McMurray, said the decision will help “to have that smear on her name removed from public view,” the Associated Press reported.
“This crime does not exist for employment application purposes,” McMurray also said, according to the AP.
What began as a routine traffic stop quickly escalated to a violent encounter. Prosecutors argued that the victim, who was having car problems and was on the side of the road, served as no imminent threat to Shelby.
Shelby was acquitted several months ago.
The former cop’s legal team claimed that the victim was reaching for something in his car and the defense felt it was a gun. “To somehow imply that she was supposed to see what was in this door panel is absurd. It’s deceitful and you should disregard it,” McMurray told jurors. Prosecutors disputed the validity of that claim using enhanced video footage to illustrate Shelby started to open fire before Terence reached for the object in his car. Her partner had simultaneously fired a taser gun, which seemed more appropriate given the circumstances. This case drew national attention.
It also prompted a monologue by popular comedian and host of the Daily Show, Trevor Noah, on describing the implicit bias that occurs when a black man is stopped. “Racial divisions are so normalized in society that people possess a bias that they don’t even realize they have.” He played footage from a helicopter surveillance tape, in which one of the Tulsa police officers says Crutcher looks like a “bad dude.”
“You can’t tell anything about that man from up in a helicopter, except one thing: He’s Black,” Noah said, calling it “implicit bias. Everyone has it. I’m even guilty of that.”
Prosecuting attorney Kevin Gray explained that “Crutcher was never aggressive toward police or actually produced a gun, and that Shelby was merely ‘guessing’ that he had one.”
The defense noted that the victim showed signs of being on hallucinogenic drugs, which was later confirmed through toxicology reports. Video at the scene also confirmed that while he had his hands in the air, Crutcher ignored commands of the police and began walking toward his automobile to reach into the driver’s side window.
During the trial, Shelby testified that she had extensive training on spotting people under the influence of hallucinogens and also had training on how to approach situations where suspects approach appear to be reaching into their car for a weapon.
Crutcher’s family was disappointed in the verdict and stated that the police department was corrupt. Tiffany Crutcher, Terence Crutcher’s twin sister added, “Terence was not the aggressor; Betty Shelby was the aggressor,” she said. “Betty Shelby had the gun. Betty Shelby was following him with his hands up.”
The NAACP is hopeful that the Justice Department pursues a further claim against the Tulsa police department for such an outrageous display of racial profiling.