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Massad Ayoob on Guns

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Archive for May 19th, 2017

Massad Ayoob

THE VERDICT IN TULSA

Friday, May 19th, 2017

I’m sure a lot of the public who saw the acquittal this week of Betty Jo Shelby, the Tulsa police officer charged with Manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, said to themselves “Gosh, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

Well, at the moment, I am in Kansas, teaching a MAG-40 armed citizens rules of engagement class at the superb Thunderbird Firearms Academy in Wichita.  One of the students came in this morning and said, “It looks as if the defense lawyers in that Tulsa case did exactly what you told us our lawyers should do if we were ever charged after a self-defense shooting.”

No kiddin’.  I can’t blame those folks who were puzzled by the acquittal in “the shooting of an unarmed black man.” They live in a world where the media doesn’t bother to tell anyone the difference between murder, manslaughter, and justifiable homicide.

Officer Shelby had observed erratic behavior from a large man who appeared to her to the under the influence of PCP.  This would later be supported by evidence: Crutcher had PCP within his body, and a quantity of it in his car.  After repeatedly ignoring lawful commands, he suddenly reached to the open window of his car, as if for a weapon.  It was enough to cause the male officer present to fire his TASER at Crutcher, and enough to cause Shelby to fire the single pistol shot that killed him.

The public was told that, in this video-taped encounter, Crutcher had his hands up.  At one point he did, but when he was shot, he was reaching as if for a weapon inside the car, with no earthly reason to do so unless he was trying to access a weapon to kill a cop.  The public was told that the window was closed, but by the opening of trial, even the prosecution had to admit that no, it was open.

Talking heads who followed the trial wailed that the defense was foolish to put the defendant on the witness stand, because that just isn’t done.  BS.  In a defensive shooting, what it comes down to is why did she shoot him?  There was only one person who could answer that – and she did.

The defense called material witnesses who confirmed that in police training, Officer Shelby had learned how quickly someone could snatch up a gun and kill a cop with it.  It is supposed to be a jury of one’s peers.  A peer would know what the defendant knew.  Now the jury knew it, too.

The public was told that corrupt investigators had whitewashed Shelby.  That allegation is very decisively refuted, here: http://lawofficer.com/investigations/crutcher-family/.

There turned out to be no gun in Crutcher’s car, but in such cases, the law has never demanded that there be one.  All the law demands is that, within the totality of the circumstances, the defendant reasonably perceived that she and her brother officer were in danger of death or great bodily harm (i.e., crippling injury).  In shorthand, “You don’t have to be right, you have to be reasonable.” The defense team got that across to the jury.

Congratulations to Attorney Shannon MacMurray and the rest of Betty Shelby’s defense team. From everything I’ve seen about the case, they did Justice.

 
 
 
 
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