CINCINNATI (AP) — A white former police officer is being retried in Ohio on murder charges in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black motorist during a 2015 traffic stop in Cincinnati, one of the many cases nationwide that have raised attention to how police deal with blacks.
Jury selection resumes Monday.
Some things to know about the second trial of Ray Tensing in the slaying of the Sam DuBose:
There’s a new presiding judge in the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court trial: Leslie Ghiz, a former city councilwoman. First trial judge Megan Shanahan took herself off the case after a hung jury in November, saying the new trial should have “a blank slate.”
The prosecution team has been overhauled, with county Prosecutor Joe Deters and his two assistants in the first trial giving way to Seth Tieger and Stacey DeGraffenreid. Deters said in January they would “bring fresh eyes” to the case while he and the other two prosecutors focus on the re-sentencing of a serial killer.
Ghiz has blocked prosecutors from showing a Great Smoky Mountains T-shirt depicting a Confederate battle flag that Tensing wore under his uniform the day of the shooting. Jurors in the first trial saw a photo of it; Tensing testified he wasn’t racist and that the flag on the shirt didn’t have any meaning to him. Ghiz ruled its potential prejudicial impact “far outweighed” its evidence value.
WHAT’S THE SAME
Tensing, now 27, again faces charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter. Jurors must decide that he purposely killed DuBose, 43, to convict him of murder, a charge that carries a possible sentence of 15 years to life in prison. The voluntary manslaughter charge means the killing happened during sudden passion or a fit of rage, carrying a possible sentence of three to 11 years.
Some legal experts have said prosecutors should have also given jurors the option of a lesser charge to consider such as reckless homicide or negligent homicide. Deters said in a recent interview with WCPO-TV he thinks the judge might do that in this trial.
Cincinnati attorney Stewart Mathews continues to lead Tensing’s defense.
The first trial jury consisted of six white males, four white females and two black females. The president of the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati, Donyetta Bailey, has been critical of the jury selection, saying prosecutors should have been more thorough in questioning and excluded some jurors who had expressed indicators of racial bias on juror questionnaires.
Some critics also pointed to the lack of black male jurors. A little more than a quarter of the county’s population is black.
Although Deters said the second trial should be moved to get jurors away from intense local interest, Ghiz said it was in everyone’s best interests to keep it in Cincinnati. She imposed a gag order, and has been embroiled in a legal battle with news media organizations including The Associated Press over coverage restrictions.
Mathews on Friday also asked for a change of venue, criticizing “a circus-like atmosphere.”
Tensing testified he feared he was going to be run over and killed as DuBose tried to drive away after he stopped him for a missing front license plate. Mathews said DuBose tried to use his vehicle as “a deadly weapon.”
Prosecutors said that evidence, including Tensing’s own body camera footage, countered his claim, and that there was no reason to shoot DuBose in the head from close range.
Jurors across the United States have shown a tendency to give police officers the benefit of the doubt for decisions to use deadly force under pressure.
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