Judge declares mistrial in case of Ohio officer who killed black man at traffic stop

CINCINNATI — After 25 hours of deliberations, jurors hearing the case against former University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing could not reach a unanimous decision on charges of murder or voluntary manslaughter.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, speaking for the first time in several days, after a gag order was lifted, revealed the jury  voted 8-4 in favor of a voluntary manslaughter conviction.

At least three jurors were willing to find Tensing, a white cop, guilty of the murder of Sam DuBose, a black motorist, Deters said.

As Judge Megan Shanahan declared a mistrial, saying the jury of six men and six women were hopelessly deadlocked, a white female juror and a black female juror openly wept.

As the jurors walked out of the courtroom they avoided eye contact with Tensing, who looked straight ahead, showing no emotion, as had been the case throughout most of the trial.

Prosecutors will now have to determine if they will re-try the case or dismiss it. Deters said he will make that decision before Nov. 28, when the next court hearing is scheduled.

“I still think it’s murder; I think that we proved it,” Deters said. Prosecutors have the option of re-trying Tensing on the same charges. “We’ll look at what we did and make an assessment. We have to decide if we have the probability of success.”

Tensing’s attorney, Stew Mathews, told The Enquirer he hopes the case doesn’t go to a second trial.

“I think if it’s re-tried, you probably end up with a similar result,” Mathews said.

Tensing remains free on a $1 million bond. Due to security concerns, he left the courtroom through a door that was out of view of the media. His father and several family members walked out of the courtroom and down a flight of stairs without responding to questions.

Many members of the DuBose family were not in the courtroom Saturday morning. DaShonda Reid, DuBose’s fiancée, arrived moments after the hung-jury announcement. On the courthouse steps, as a peaceful demonstration was underway nearby, she hugged Teaila Williamson, one of DuBose’s daughters.

“The defense won a small victory, but the war has not been won,” Reid said.

Later Saturday, DuBose’s sister, Terina Allen, told The Enquirer the family was “devastated.” A tearful Allen, who often had to stop to regain her composure, said she, her mother and the rest of her family were having a difficult time understanding the jury's inability to agree on a verdict.

“They said Sam didn't matter,” Allen said. “This is not acceptable. ... There is no justice in this.”

DuBose's father, Sam Johnson, and aunt were among the few family members in the courthouse when the mistrial was announced just after 10 a.m.

Outside the courthouse, the Rev. Troy Jackson, executive director of Amos Project, part of the Black Lives Matter-led coalition, watched on a live feed with demonstrators.

“If 12 people in Hamilton County cannot come to an agreement on a murder charge in this case, is it ever going to be possible to convict a police officer?” Jackson said.

Tensing is charged in the July 19, 2015, fatal shooting of DuBose during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn.

The case came down to whether Tensing was in fear for his life when DuBose tried to drive away from the traffic stop for not having a front license plate.

Tensing said both that he was dragged by DuBose’s car and that it was his “perception” his life was in danger.

Deters called Tensing’s statements “nonsensical” and centered his case on Tensing’s body camera video, which captured the shooting. An analysis of that video showed Tensing pulled out his gun and aimed it at DuBose’s head moments before the car was moving. The car had moved a few feet when the shot was fired.

Mathews on Saturday said he completely disagrees with the video analysis of an incident that unfolded less than three seconds. To him, the video shows DuBose, by trying to drive away, could have seriously injured or killed Tensing.

“The camera does not show everything Tensing saw or felt in his gut,” he said.

It was an expensive case to bring to trial, and Deters said if there is a retrial, the total cost to the county would be “more than $1 million.”

Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who helped the DuBose family reach a settlement with the university, said he believed the video evidence was enough for the jury to make a decision.

“There should have been a conviction,” he said. “Justice in this country comes with the ultimate responsibility determined by a criminal court.”

Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati posted on Twitter Saturday afternoon: “We will accept nothing less than a conviction for Ray Tensing, and we demand to immediately retry the case.”

Mike Allen, the county’s former prosecutor who now works as a defense attorney, said he was not surprised by the mistrial. He said he believes the jury couldn’t decide on a verdict because Deters charged Tensing with the wrong crimes.

“Ray Tensing should never have been indicted for murder. The facts were just not there," Mike Allen said. "It was a prosecutorial overreach, and I'm not sure if that was because of community pressure or what, because usually Joe Deters is not swayed by that.”

In a statement Saturday, UC Interim President Beverly Davenport, said: “We cannot and will not let the outcome of this trial divide us.”


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