A former Oklahoma police office, Shannon Kepler, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree manslaughter after he shot and killed his daughter’s boyfriend, the New York Post reports.
Kepler fatally shot his daughter’s boyfriend, Jeremey Lake, in 2014; however, he wasn’t convicted of this crime until Wednesday, during his fourth trial.
Why did his conviction take so long? The Washington Post explains that Kepler’s three previous trials were declared mistrials, because the juries were split. (Apparently, shooting and killing an innocent, unarmed man is a gray area for three separate juries to decide on a verdict.)
Though many believe the real reason the jurors may have been unable to come to a conclusion on Kepler’s case (regardless of the fact that he is very obviously guilty of murdering Lake) is that studies show that white people tend to perceive black men as more threatening. John Paul Wilson, an author of the study, explains toThe Washington Post that the authors used a plethora of profile photos, which consisted of black and white men, to determine how “strong” each individual appeared to the study’s participants.
“We found that these estimates were consistently biased. Participants judged the black men to be larger, stronger and more muscular than the white men, even though they were actually the same size,” Wilson says. Because the jurors were predominately white, these biases could have easily swayed some jurors’ verdicts –thus leading to the three hung trials. (Even though, Kepler’s self-defense plea got side-eye from many who considered Lake's death a hate crime.)
CBS News reports that back in 2014, Kepler told police that he shot Lake because he was armed with a semi-automatic weapon and was supposedly dangerous (despite the fact that investigators never found any weapons on or near Lake’s body). Regardless, Kepler still went with the self-defense claim.
While Kepler’s sentencing trial isn’t scheduled until Nov. 20, the jury in his fourth and final trial suggested he receive a 15-year sentence and a $10,000 fine, Broadly reports. (FYI, the maximum sentence for first-degree murder is life without parole.)
So it still remains to be seen whether justice will be served.