[WATCH] Judge Grants Former Tulsa Police Officers Request For Manslaughter Case Records to be Expunged

Former Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby is able to legally say she was never arrested or prosecuted for the shooting death of Terence Crutcher last year after a judge granted her request to expunge the record of her manslaughter case.

Neither Shelby, 43, nor her legal team were at the Tulsa County Courthouse on Wednesday morning for a hearing set by District Judge William LaFortune related to her August petition that sought the sealing of associated documents because all parties involved agreed to an expungement.

But LaFortune announced in court Wednesday that he scheduled the matter for discussion on Wednesday “given the high-profile nature of this case and this petitioner,” which allowed an opportunity for anyone to announce an objection or to request a full hearing.

No one did so, prompting LaFortune to sign an order granting Shelby’s expungement. He said the order had already been signed by attorney Clint James, who represented Shelby in her petition; Shelton Benedict, a member of the city of Tulsa’s legal department; Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Matt Kehoe; and John Wolf, a representative from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

No one offered comment after the hearing concluded. LaFortune’s order, according to Oklahoma statute, means Shelby can legally say upon inquiry about her manslaughter case that “no such action ever occurred and that no such record exists” about her.

Her petition argued for expungement because she has no criminal convictions or pending criminal cases and contended she “faces dangers of unwarranted adverse consequences” if the case records are not sealed. She also alleged her privacy interests outweighed the public’s interest in keeping information about her arrest and criminal case public.

However, state law indicates expunged records are not immediately physically destroyed but are rather sealed and stored for at least the next 10 years. The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, Tulsa Police Department, OSBI or any other interested person or agency can petition the court during that timespan for an order asking to unseal Shelby’s case record, which would subsequently be set for hearing.

If the judge at that time determines conditions have changed or that there is a compelling reason to do so, he or she can order all or part of the record unsealed. The record may be obliterated or destroyed at the end of the 10-year period if it is not unsealed before then, according to state statute.

Shelby was charged Sept. 22, 2016, with first-degree manslaughter over the death of Crutcher six days earlier that occurred while Shelby was on duty. A jury on May 17 found that she was not guilty either of manslaughter committed in the heat of passion or manslaughter while resisting an attempt to commit a crime.

Shelby, who is white, shot Crutcher, a 40-year-old black man, near 36th Street North and Lewis Avenue during an interaction that occurred after Shelby diverted from responding to a domestic violence call so she could see why Crutcher’s vehicle was parked in a way that impeded the flow of traffic. Video footage of the incident, combined with information indicating Crutcher did not have a gun, caused intense backlash and outrage locally and nationally.

Police video of the encounter shows Crutcher walking toward his SUV with his hands raised as Shelby points her handgun at him. She argued during her trial that she shot him when he reached with his left hand through the half-open driver’s window, and pointed to evidence gathered after his death about drugs in his system as proof she was correct to consider him a possible threat to her safety.

Shelby resigned from the Tulsa Police Department effective Aug. 3 after spending nearly six years with the agency. She was sworn in Aug. 10 as a reserve deputy for the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office.

Crutcher’s estate has a pending federal civil rights lawsuit against Shelby, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan and the city of Tulsa that contends his death is emblematic of the culture of violence by police against people of color.

Source: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/bettyshelby/judge-grants-betty-shelby-s-request-for-manslaughter-case-records/article_7084de71-61ad-5552-bb74-d9d358aeeb3f.html