TPD Officer Betty Shelby Pleads 'Not Guilty' To First-Degree Manslaughter
TULSA, Oklahoma - The Tulsa Police officer who is accused of shooting and killing Terence Crutcher two weeks ago went before a judge for the first time Friday morning.
Betty Shelby's arraignment on a first-degree manslaughter charge took less than three minutes, which is typical for an arraignment.
Crutcher's family and their attorneys went into the courtroom with heavy hearts.
“The family just buried their son on Monday, so they're still in the process of grieving,” attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said.
Betty Shelby walked into the courtroom with her attorney at just before 9 a.m. Terence Crutcher's family and attorneys were seated on the fourth row. Shelby and her attorney sat on the front row.
Shelby's case was first on the docket and she left the courthouse surrounded by friends who were off-duty Tulsa Police officers. She spoke only one time, saying 'yes' when the judge asked her if she was Betty Jo Shelby.
Shelby’s attorney said the events over the last weeks have weighed heavily on her, adding Shelby hasn't lost sight that she is a public servant and she wants to maintain that attitude of professionalism.
The affidavit says Crutcher was not listening to Shelby's repeated verbal commands to stop and get on his knees.
Shelby told investigators she feared for her life, but the affidavit says the prosecutor believes Shelby acted unreasonably and became emotionally involved to the point she over-reacted.
Friday, the judge read the charge, first-degree manslaughter - heat of passion. Shelby's attorney Shannon McMurry entered a "not guilty" plea on Shelby's behalf, which is standard.
The Crutcher family's attorney said the plea wasn’t a surprise.
Solomon-Simmons said, “Today was just a small first step towards the justice that we want for Terence and his family.”
Shelby went into the courthouse and left through the sheriff's office, which is something most other defendants aren't allowed to do.
But, Tulsa County said it happens with high-risk defendants; and because Shelby has gotten death threats, she was allowed to go that way for safety and the safety of others.
Chief Deputy Michelle Robinette released a statement saying:
"Actually, we us the Sheriff's door frequently for high profile individuals. The attorneys for Shelby did not request special assistance, nor did they request heightened security. We made that decision based on the national attention that this case has drawn, the influx of media as well as the number of protests and out of town individuals that have come specifically for this case. The average number of individuals in this courthouse on a daily basis is very high, specifically for those coming and going into courtroom 173 and we expected a much larger crowd due to the media attention of this case. To make sure that the public was taken care of, that no protests/protestors were able to cause an issue in the area of the courtroom and due to threats that have come in toward the judges and prosecution, as well as Shelby, we made the decision to do what we could to minimize exposure, stage media in specific area so that their wants could be addressed, reduce congestion in the hallway for other individuals to conduct their business without interruption and to avoid any potentially bad situations. The decision was based on courthouse security, not Officer Shelby.
"As far as remembering specifically who we have brought through the Sheriff's Office, I cannot remember specific names. I know that the high profile dentist was brought through, the Bever brothers, on several occasions have been brought through and I believe Yelton and Henderson were brought through as well."
The judge set a date for the next hearing, November 29th at 9 a.m. That will be the preliminary hearing. Of course, that is subject to change.