Ohio murder retrial set for ex-campus cop who shot unarmed black driver

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 08, 2017 6:10 AM

By Ginny McCabe

CINCINNATI (Reuters) - A former University of Cincinnati police officer faces a second trial on Thursday on charges that he murdered an unarmed black motorist in a 2015 shooting that sparked debate about U.S. law enforcement's use of excessive force.

Body-camera video of the July 2015 incident showed then-officer Ray Tensing, 27, shooting Samuel DuBose, 43, in the head during a traffic stop after stopping DuBose for a missing front license plate on his vehicle. Tensing, who is white, faces murder and voluntary manslaughter charges in the retrial.

Opening arguments are set for Thursday morning at a county courthouse in Cincinnati. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on a $1 million bond.

DuBose's death fueled demonstrations against use of lethal force by white officers against unarmed blacks and other minorities, an issue that renewed debate over racial bias in U.S. police departments.

The university police fired Tensing after he was charged. A mistrial was declared last November in the first trial after jurors could not agree. Prosecutors said they would retry Tensing.

A jury of 12 people - seven white females, two white males, two black females and one black male - will hear the case at the Hamilton County Courthouse.

A gag order has been placed on all parties by Common Pleas Court Judge Leslie Ghiz. But Tensing's attorney, Stew Mathews, said in November the shooting was justified as Tensing feared for his life and only fired to prevent being run over. Mathews said the defense would remain unchanged.

During the traffic stop, Tensing asked DuBose to remove his seatbelt and tried to open the car door. DuBose did not comply and closed the door. The vehicle started rolling forward slowly as Tensing pulled his gun and fired once.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said last fall he felt his team had proven murder. Prosecutors had argued that Tensing was never in danger and exaggerated being dragged by DuBose's vehicle.

(Reporting by Ginny McCabe, Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by David Gregorio)