Jury Pool Narrowing In Betty Shelby Manslaughter Trial

Tuesday, May 9th 2017, 12:51 pm
By: News On 6

Day two of jury selection in Betty Shelby's manslaughter trial got underway at the Tulsa County Courthouse Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Judge Doug Drummond and attorneys for the prosecution and defense questioned potential jurors over several hours.

Shelby, a Tulsa police officer, is charged in the death of Terence Crutcher in September, 2016. 

Judge Drummond spent most of the morning questioning potential jurors about pretrial publicity. Drummond called in six to seven jurors at a time to ask what they have seen and heard about the case.

He told them there are no right or wrong answers, they just need to answer honestly. Drummond reminded them that when it comes to social media in particular, it's best to be honest because those accounts can be checked to see what's been said.

Several jurors were dismissed for cause - one said he was a security guard and didn't think he could be impartial. Others had health issues or were in some way not qualified to serve.

A couple of jurors told the judge they don't think they could be fair because they already had formed opinions in the case. Yet another said they thought the news coverage became so controversial and biased they stopped watching last fall around election time.

The majority said they can set aside what they've heard, seen and be fair.

Special Coverage: Betty Shelby Manslaughter Trial

Attorneys for the prosecution and defense began their questioning process in the afternoon, trying to narrow the pool to 12 jurors and two alternates. 

Attorneys for both sides discussed the role of bias in life - acknowledging that everyone makes judgments about others based on how they look, but that those beliefs must be set aside so that they do not affect decision-making in the courtroom.

District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told jurors that skin color is a part of the case since Officer Betty Shelby is white and Terence Crutcher was black, but the law states you shall not let bias, prejudice or sympathy affect your decisions.

He also asked jurors how they evaluate when someone is lying - and asked them to evaluate each witness equally regardless or title or uniform.

The district attorney asked jurors about their experiences with people who have mental illness, a disability or drug issue. He asked jurors to define "common sense," saying they will need to use it in the case to evaluate evidence. 

Shelby's attorney Shannon McMurray told jurors the "elephant in the room" is that the case has drawn national attention and tensions are high concerning the outcome, but those outside concerns can't influence the verdict.

She asked jurors if they thought someone was guilty because they had been accused of a crime and reminded them that everyone is presumed by the law to be innocent unless prosecutors prove their guilt.

McMurray asked jurors if they believe police abuse their authority, also asking them if they expect their children to obey them and what they do if talking to their kids doesn't work.

She asked if they thought communication was key in understanding someone's intentions and if a lack of communication makes makes it hard. She also asked jurors about how a person's actions can communicate intentions.

Betty Shelby and her husband were in court for the jury questioning sessions.