Opening arguments set for murder trial of ex-Cincinnati university cop

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 01, 2016 6:23 AM

By Ginny McCabe

CINCINNATI (Reuters) - Opening arguments in the trial of a former University of Cincinnati police officer charged with murdering a black Ohio man during a traffic stop are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Body camera video of the stop in July 2015 showed Samuel DuBose, 43, was shot in the head by officer Ray Tensing, 26, after he was pulled over for a missing front license plate on his vehicle.

DuBose attempted to prevent the officer from opening the car door before the car started slowly rolling forward. Tensing, who is white, pulled his gun and fired once.

Use of lethal force by police, especially by white officers against unarmed blacks and other minorities, has been the focus of nationwide protests, and the killing of DuBose fueled demonstrations.

Tensing's trial is one of two high-profile cases involving former police officers who fatally shot unarmed black motorists that are under way.

In South Carolina, Michael Slager, a white North Charleston officer is on trial for shooting Walter Scott eight times in the back as he fled in April 2015.

Since 2005, 27 of 77 officers charged across the country with murder or manslaughter after an on-duty fatal shooting were convicted, said Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University associate professor who tracks such cases. Twenty-nine of those criminal cases ended with no conviction, while cases for 21 of those officers are pending.

The 12-person jury in Tensing's trial was selected on Monday in Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and opening statements will begin after jurors visit the scene of the fatal traffic stop, court officials said.

Tensing feared being dragged under the car as DuBose tried to drive away, Tensing's attorney, Stew Mathews, previously said. Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters last year called DuBose's death unwarranted and described the traffic stop as "pretty chicken crap."

Judge Megan Shanahan previously ruled in a pre-trial hearing that DuBose's medical and criminal records as well as his toxicology reports showing marijuana in his system could not be used as evidence in the case, but the presence of marijuana in DuBose's car and on his person could be.

Tensing pleaded not guilty to murder and was released on $1 million bond. If convicted, he could face a life sentence.

An independent report on the shooting released in September 2015 called it "entirely preventable."

The family reached a settlement of about $5 million with the university earlier this year.

(Reporting by Ginny McCabe Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by James Dalgleish)