Ohio city braces again for police shooting trial
Cincinnati — Prosecutors, attorneys and people across the Cincinnati region have had six months to analyze and debate the hung jury result in the murder trial of a white police officer charged with killing an unarmed black man.
They’ll soon find out whether a second trial will get a new result.
Prospective jurors will report Thursday for the retrial of ex-University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing in the July 19, 2015, shooting of Sam DuBose during a traffic stop.
City councilwoman Yvette Simpson said it’s difficult to find anyone locally who’s not invested in the case in some way.
Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz, who has imposed a gag order on trial participants and restrictions on news media coverage, said it has “huge community implications.”
It’s among cases nationally that have focused attention on how police deal with blacks and also the challenges prosecutors face gaining convictions.
“It’s always hard to tell whenever you’re talking about these cases,” said Rodney Harris, a Cincinnati public defender. “When you look around the nation, it’s always difficult to get a resolution, just because of the nature of the case.”
In the latest example, an Oklahoma jury last week found white Tulsa officer Betty Shelby not guilty of manslaughter. She said she shot out of fear when she killed Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man.
Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University criminologist who has been tracking on-duty police shooting cases dating to 2005, said at least 81 officers across the country have been charged with murder or manslaughter in on-duty shootings in that time. Of those, 29 were convicted, 15 by juries, with 32 acquitted and the rest pending. Many other police shootings never result in charges because authorities conclude they were justified.
Ohio Fraternal Order of Police President Jay McDonald has been critical of the decision to try Tensing a second time, saying he, as other officers have to do, made “a life-or-death judgment call in the matter of a split second.” McDonald said recently: “We will stand by Officer Tensing.”
Tensing testified he feared for his life as DuBose, 43, tried to drive away from a traffic stop for a missing front license plate. Tensing, 27, is also charged with voluntary manslaughter.
Donyetta Bailey, president of the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati, suggested last week at the last of a series of community forums to explain and discuss the trial process that Tensing might have had an unfounded fear of black people.
Prospective jurors will begin by filling out lengthy questionnaires. The questions haven’t yet been made public, but those for first trial covered topics ranging from personal dealings with police to opinions about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Bailey and other black leaders were upset last November when questionnaires released after the trial showed that some jurors who were seated expressed opinions that could indicate racial bias. Four jurors, for example, agreed that some races and/or ethnic groups tend to be more violent than others.
“I would like to see them (prosecutors) press harder, ask more probing questions,” Bailey said of the jury questioning expected to begin after Memorial Day.
An attorney representing DuBose family members said they remain hopeful that Tensing will be convicted.
“I think they would be very upset if this ended the same way,” said veteran Cincinnati civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein.
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