CINCINNATI — An Ohio prosecutor announced Tuesday that he will retry a white former police officer who was accused of murder in the fatal shooting of a black man during a traffic stop last year.
Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Deters said during a morning press conference that his office spent the 10 days since a mistrial was declared in the case of Ray Tensing interviewing jurors and reviewing trial transcripts, ultimately deciding “that there is a chance of probable success in the event of another trial and we will be doing that.”
Deters said his office will be seeking a change of venue, citing the intense media scrutiny and social media publicity surrounding the case.
“It is our belief that the public attention that has been focused on the Tensing case could have in fact seeped into the jury room,” Deters said.
Tensing, a former University of Cincinnati officer, shot and killed Sam DuBose on July 19, 2015, after pulling DuBose over for a missing license plate. Tensing was indicted by a grand jury on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.
The Hamilton County jury considered the case for three days before a mistrial was announced on Nov. 12. Deters said that throughout the highly publicized trial, jurors expressed fears that their identities would be compromised, putting them in harm’s way.
This case had attracted demonstrators, including Black Lives Matter activists, outside the Hamilton County courthouse and is among other shootings across the country that have raised debate about how police treat black people.
He said post-trial interviews with “about half” of the jury indicated they discussed matters during deliberations that were “inappropriate.”
“There were discussions we believe in the jury room concerning penalty, which isn’t proper,” Deters said. “And discussions of sympathy for the defendant, which isn’t proper.”
Body camera footage from the day DuBose was killed showed Tensing shooting DuBose in the head, which Tensing acknowledged to homicide detectives he did purposely. The officer said he shot DuBose because he feared for his life, saying DuBose’s car was dragging him.
During the trial, the prosecution said evidence from that same body camera video contradicted Tensing’s claim of having been dragged.
“If we didn’t have a body cam in this case, we’d have nothing, because we have an officer saying he’s being dragged 20 feet or 30 feet, and we know that’s a total lie,” Deters said Tuesday.
But defense attorney Stewart Mathews insisted Tensing was trying to keep from being run over.
“He was in sheer terror,” Mathews told jurors. “The evidence is very clear that a car can be just as deadly as a gun or knife.”
He said prosecutors tried to use race as “a smokescreen,” pointing to Tensing’s T-shirt worn under his uniform that day. The “Great Smoky Mountains” shirt had a Confederate flag on it. Mathews said it had “no evidentiary value.”
On Tuesday, Deters said issues involving the race of the defendant and victim are unavoidable in this case.
“I really don’t want race to be an issue, but it’s hanging out there, it’s kinda like the elephant in the room,” Deters said.