CINCINNATI — Jury deliberations began Wednesday in the murder trial ofduring a traffic stop over a missing front license plate.
An attorney for Ray Tensing, a now-fired University of Cincinnati police officer, said in closing arguments that prosecutors had tried to inject race as “a smoke screen” in the trial. Tensing has said he shot Sam DuBose while being dragged by DuBose’s car as he tried to drive away on July 19, 2015.
The prosecution said evidence countered Tensing’s claims.
“The evidence is overwhelming that there was absolutely no justification” for shooting DuBose, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told the jury of 10 whites and two blacks.
Judge Megan Shanahan completed her instructions to the jury late Wednesday morning.
Assistant Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said Tensing’s body camera video, witness testimony and physical evidence all rebut his story.
But defense attorney Stewart Mathews insisted that the 26-year-old 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 criticized prosecutors for 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.”
Mathews told jurors that prosecutors failed to prove Tensing purposely killed the 43-year-old DuBose, a finding required to convict him of murder. He said they also didn’t prove Tensing acted in a fit of rage or sudden passion, as required to convict him of voluntary manslaughter, the other charge he faced.
City officials met with civil rights and faith leaders in the weeks before the trial, trying to reduce tensions over the racially charged case, which brought demonstrators - including Black Lives Matter activists - outside the courthouse. It is among cases nationwide that have raised attention to how police deal with blacks.
Deters told jurors Wednesday that “emotions are high,” but they have heard the facts and must decide based on the facts.
Tensing, who was fired after his indictment last year, wept on the stand Tuesday. He said his arm was stuck in DuBose’s car at the time and the car was turning toward him.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my God, he’s going to run me over, and he’s going to kill me,’” Tensing said.
A prosecution expert witness testified that his analysis of Tensing’s body camera video shows the officer was not being dragged by the car. A defense witness on Tuesday testified that a frame-by-frame analysis of the video shows Tensing’s body was “violently twisted” during the confrontation.
Deters asked Tensing about an outside report that eight out of every 10 drivers that Tensing pulled over for traffic stops were black, the highest rate of any University of Cincinnati officer.
Tensing said he was often unaware of a driver’s race, did not single people out unfairly and was not racist.
Witnesses testified that DuBose had significant amounts of marijuana and cash on him, which Mathews described as a reason he was desperate to flee. Tensing pulled him over near campus for a missing front license plate.