After deliberating for roughly seven hours, a Philadelphia jury found bike courier Michael White not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the fatal stabbing of real estate developer Sean Schellenger.
Thursday’s decision drew tears from both sides of a packed courtroom and outrage from the Schellenger family as a case fraught with racial tension came to a close.
White is black, and has claimed Schellenger, who was white, used racist language in their July 2018 exchange that ultimately led to Schellenger’s death.
Immediately following the verdict, Linda Schellenger, Sean’s mother, stood up and told Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson that District Attorney Larry Krasner should be arrested for obstruction of justice.
“He has blood on his hands,” she said, referring to Krasner’s eleventh-hour decision to reduce the charges filed against White and try him on voluntary manslaughter instead of third-degree murder.
Prosecutors did not address reporters outside the courthouse.
In a statement, Krasner said that his office “remains committed to individual justice, which rejects using people as symbols or stereotypes to serve any other agenda.
“My heart goes out to family and friends of Sean Schellenger, whose pain and trauma are evident even today, and to everyone else who has been affected by this tragedy.”
The verdict follows three days of testimony often before a gallery filled with family members and friends of both men.
Prosecutors argued that White, 22, intentionally killed Schellenger, 37, after threatening him with a jagged, seven-inch knife.
White testified that he stuck the knife into Schellenger’s back in self-defense as Schellenger tried to tackle him. White said he feared for his life after Schellenger told him through gritted teeth that he was going to “beat the black off” him.
After the verdict, Mark Schellenger, Sean’s father, said his son didn’t have “a racist bone in his body.”
“To have him smeared like that just to save a murderer, that’s despicable,” said Mark Schellenger.