TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The first-degree manslaughter case brought against a white former Oklahoma police officer who was acquitted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man will be removed from her record after she asked to have it expunged, a judge ruled Wednesday.
But that doesn’t mean no one will ever be able to read the case again.
District Judge William LaFortune also ordered all documents involving former Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby’s case sealed and kept with the court. The case will only be accessible through a court order and can be destroyed after 10 years, according to state law.
Excluding government and law enforcement, which would have access to the record because Shelby would likely disclose it on job applications, agencies won’t be able to find the case in a background search, said Shelby’s defense attorney, Shannon McMurray.
“This crime does not exist for employment application purposes,” McMurray said Wednesday.
She said it was important for Shelby “to have that smear on her name removed from public view.”
“Like any other citizen who is acquitted, Betty Jo Shelby was entitled to have her record sealed and expunged,” the attorney said. “Betty … continues to work to try and serve her community and prays for everyone’s continued healing.”
A spokeswoman for the district attorney declined to comment Wednesday.
Shelby petitioned in August to have her record expunged after jurors acquitted her three months earlier in the September 2016 killing of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher.
She was on patrol last year when she encountered Crutcher, whose SUV was stopped in the middle of the street. Shelby testified at trial that she was scared because Crutcher appeared to be under the influence of drugs, didn’t obey her commands and looked like he was reaching inside his vehicle.
Prosecutors argued that Shelby overreacted. Videos from a patrol car dashboard and a police helicopter showed Crutcher had his hands in the air.
Shelby was reinstated to the force two days after her acquittal. She returned to work in an administrative capacity but resigned in July, saying she felt isolated from other officers.
She was later sworn in as a reserve sheriff’s deputy in nearby Rogers County.