Day One of the first-degree manslaughter trial of Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby was primarily spent in the beginning stages of whittling down the pool of 70 jurors. Attorneys expect the process will continue through Tuesday and into at least part of Wednesday before testimony begins.
Seventy potential jurors spent Monday morning on the fourth floor of the Tulsa County District Courthouse filling out two questionnaires about their beliefs, backgrounds and exposure to the case.
The first form prospective jurors were asked to fill out focused on how much they knew about the case and whether they’ve seen information on it.
A separate four-page questionnaire asked about the juror’s backgrounds and views.
One question asked, “How often do you believe that the Tulsa Police Department uses excessive force when they arrest criminal suspects?”
Another questioned whether the juror believes law enforcement officers treat black people differently from white people.
Forty-three jurors were brought into District Judge Doug Drummond’s courtroom in groups of six later that afternoon for further screening and were asked to explain their exposure to the case.
One potential juror said although he saw up to 50 news articles on social media, he only paid attention to “10 or so.” The juror said he talked with coworkers about the issue of police using excessive force against minorities.
“It seemed to be a part of this broader issue,” the man explained.
Asked whether he could be an impartial juror, the the man said yes. When Drummond noted the man hesitated, the prospective juror pointed to the choices he would have to make if selected.
“I just feel like this is a big issue going on right now,” the man said. “I would prefer not to have this responsibility.”
One potential juror said she wasn’t sure whether she could serve impartially because she had “many, many” positive experiences with law enforcement officers.
Prosecutors later requested the woman be dismissed for cause, but Drummond declined and said further screening of the juror would happen Tuesday.
Three jurors were dismissed for cause Monday evening: Two by the state’s recommendation for having “extremely strong opinions” about Shelby’s innocence or guilt. Defense attorneys didn’t object.
Another was excused for cause because her husband is a reserve officer who has regularly interacted with Shelby, including after she was charged.
Twelve people will make up the jury, but the number of alternates won’t be addressed until the completion of selection, which is slated to continue Tuesday morning.
Increase in security
Though Shelby didn’t appear in the courthouse on the first day of her trial, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is upping its security of the courthouse until the trial is over.
TCSO Undersheriff George Brown said the agency has added extra deputies to patrol, some uniformed, some not. An extra security check and metal detector has been placed in front of Drummond’s courtroom, who is the presiding judge in the case.
“Other than that I can’t get into the specifics of our security here, but what I can tell you is everyone can expect to go through the security check point,” Brown said.
The Tulsa Police Department will block streets near the courthouse, and the Sheriff’s Office will patrol the perimeter, Brown said.
Asked whether the Sheriff’s Office expected unrest as a result of the trial, Brown said it will be “business as usual.”
Sally Van Schenck, communications director for the Tulsa County District Attorney, told reporters Monday afternoon that the DA’s office won’t comment on the case until the conclusion of the trial.
Schenck said she doesn’t expect Crutcher’s family to comment, either. They didn’t appear at the courthouse Monday.
Defense attorneys Shannon McMurray and Scott Wood declined to comment Monday evening.