Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Justice Delayed: Killer Cop Trial Results in Hung Jury

After deliberating for about 25 hours, on November 11th, sequestered jurors in the Ray Tensing trial in Cincinnati could not reach a unanimous verdict. The judge, Megan E. Shanahan, declared a mistrial. Tensing, a 26-year-old White University of Cincinnati police officer, was tried on murder and voluntary manslaughter charges after shooting Sam DuBose, a 43-year-old Black male, during a routine traffic stop on July 19, 2015. DuBose was not on the University of Cincinnati campus but was stopped because he did not have a license plate on the front of the vehicle he was driving. The University of Cincinnati has a mutual aid agreement, which allows University of Cincinnati police officers to police areas surrounding the University. During the stop, Tensing killed DuBose with a shot to the head.

Tensing’s defense was that he was being dragged by DuBose’s vehicle and feared for his life. Tensing testified in his own defense during the trial. The Supreme Court has ruled that shooting a suspect who is fleeing is not justified unless the officer is in danger of severe injury or death. Video evidence presented during the trial clearly disputed Tensing’s claim. Scot Huag, a police use-of- force expert, testified that Tensing repeatedly violated police procedure during the routine traffic stop and the shooting was not justified. During the two-week trial, evidence was also presented that Tensing was wearing a t-shirt, depicting the Confederate flag, under his uniform the day of the shooting. Hamilton County Prosecutor, Joe Deters, reported that Tensing was an outlier in his department because he stopped more people, wrote more tickets, and made more arrests than any other officer in the University of Cincinnati police department. In addition, at least 75% of individuals he stopped, cited, or arrested were Black, the highest racial disparity in the department.

The jury was comprised of six White males, four White females, and two Black females. The judge was criticized for refusing to make juror questionnaires public, but Judge Shanahan reported several members of the jury had expressed fears for their safety. During the trial one juror was excused due to extreme safety fears. At least three members of the jury voted to convict Tensing of murder and eight jury members voted to convict on voluntary manslaughter charges. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will have until November 28th to decide whether to try Tensing again. 

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