Greenwood (North Tulsa)

Shelby’s Manslaughter Trial: Inconsistent Narratives and Questionable Evidence Handling

By Nehemiah Frank | Managing Editor Liz Frank

 

TULSA Okla. — On September 16, 2016 Tulsa Police Department Officer Betty Shelby shot and killed Terence Crutcher after a brief interaction on North 36th Street. Tulsa County District Attorney, Steve Kunzweiler, is trying Shelby for first-degree manslaughter.  The accounts below are from Thursday’s trial witnesses.

 

Officer Dan Embrey

Officer Dan Embrey of the Tulsa Police Department was the first witness on the stand Thursday. Embrey testified that on September 16, 2016 he heard a distress call from his squad car radio. The voice coming through the speakers was Officer Betty Shelby’s. Shelby reported that a man wasn’t complying with her commands.

After arriving on the scene at 7:40 p.m, Embrey describes four officers walking backward from a Lincoln SUV. He stepped out of his squad car and while walking past the passenger side of the SUV, he looked inside the vehicle and saw no occupants.

The only items found later in the Lincoln were text books Terence Crutcher, Shelby’s unarmed victim, had purchased for his FastTrack classes at Tulsa Community College, a box of Newport cigarettes, and an orange soda bottle filled nearly a third of the way to the top.

Embrey continued walking around the vehicle to find Crutcher flat on his back, eyes rolled back and hands by his side. He testified that Crutcher was still alive but described his breathing as shallow. Embrey testified that he called for an ambulance, and after doing so, he immediately began attempting to resuscitate Crutcher.

Steve Kunzweiler, Tulsa County District Attorney, asked Embrey if he tried to speak to Crutcher to see if he was responsive. Embrey said that he did not.

After the paramedics arrived, Embrey stepped aside so they could assist Crutcher. Embrey opened the Lincoln’s door and took out Crutcher’s wallet. He told the jury that he only did so to identify the victim, who Shelby claimed was a criminal.

Additionally, Embrey told the court that he saw Shelby crying when he arrived at the scene. This would be contradicted by later witnesses, and it was the first major inconsistency in Thursday’s testimony.

Corporal Wyett Poth

Tulsa Police Corporal Wyett Poth later testified that he did not see Shelby sobbing when he arrived on the scene. Poth approached Shelby and instructed her not to say a word.

He told the court,  “I knew there would be a group of people not happy simply because of the color of somebody’s skin.” After the overt mention of race, the courtroom erupted.

Poth took command of the crime scene after his arrival.

Detective Matthew Osborn

Around 8:07 p.m. Tulsa Police Detective Matthew Osborn arrived at the 2300 Block of East 36th Street North.

Osborn told the court that Crutcher’s SUV was parked in the middle of the road and no one was on the scene. He testified that the area was cordoned off with yellow police tape when he arrived. This testimony was inconsistent with photos investigators’ took the night of Crutcher’s murder.

Interestingly, Osborn told the court he was doing “on the job training.” For part of his training, he was tasked with taking pictures, recording video footage of the crime scene, and numbering the gathered evidence.

Osborn testified that the vehicle was running, that he heard music coming from the SUV, and that the windows were down. Photographic evidence shows that the windows were approximately two-thirds of the way up.

Detective Michael Burgess

Detective Michael Burgess testified that she found the Newport cigarettes in the pocket of the arm rest on the driver’s side of Crutcher’s vehicle when she arrived to the scene at 8:13 p.m. In another inconsistency, a photo submitted into evidence showed a vile of what is presumed to be PCP in the pocket of the Lincoln’s arm rest.

Regarding the Lincoln’s windows, Burgess said, “I believe they were all down or partially down.”

Burgess also indicated that there had been changes to evidence bags and envelopes. Some had additional seals she hadn’t seen before her court appearance, and she noticed that scotch tape had been added to one of the bags.

Detective Corporal Terrence Campbell

Detective Terrence Campbell took two samples of forensic evidence at the scene, a dry swab and a wet swab of residue from the window. Campbell dropped the wet swab on the floor, contaminating it, but despite that, it was still used as evidence.

Campbell testified to taking photos of the vehicle over the course of a few days, and the later photographs show that some of the vehicles’ contents were removed, including the cigarette box, orange soda bottle, text book, and a gold-colored piece of material, perhaps the top of a trophy.

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Media outlets wait outside of court room, during Betty Shelby’s trial for the killing of Terence Crutcher

Photographic Evidence and Inconsistencies

One photo, submitted into evidence, showed that the window was a little more than two-thirds of the way up but in later pictures, shot by different investigators, the same window was half-way-down.

A Newport cigarette box could be seen on the console in one photo and omitted in another. The bottle of orange soda was nearly full in one photo and a few days later it appeared empty. A photograph of a box of Newport cigarettes found in the middle of the street was an estimated 50 feet from Crutcher’s SUV. Another photo, even more strangely, showed a box of cigarettes, laying on the armrest, which weren’t Newports.

Viewing the visual evidence in the criminal investigation was a difficult for the audience. Nearly all of the spectators and jurors cringed after seeing a photo of a blood-splattered door, a crimson-tainted street, and clothing stained red as Crutcher’s blood filled the screen.

The courtroom showed quiet respect, while Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Crutcher’s twin, and their parents sorrowfully inclined their heads downward, as the photos reopened their wounds and frustrations.

Shelby’s trial is ongoing and we’ll continue to update our readers.