Jury has been chosen for traffic stop shooting case
CINCINNATI — A jury of two blacks and 10 whites was seated on Monday for the murder trial of a white University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man during a traffic stop last year.
The jury, with two black women, four white women and six white men, was chosen after a day of questioning by attorneys who urged jury candidates to put aside race, news stories and police perceptions for the case of now-fired officer Ray Tensing.
“This case is not about the color of any man’s skin that’s involved in the case,” defense attorney Stewart Mathews said. “It’s about the facts.”
The two sides will make their opening statements on Tuesday after jurors are taken by bus to view the scene where Tensing killed Sam DuBose on July 19, 2015.
Hamilton County Judge Megan Shanahan told the jurors not to read or watch news media coverage and to take “a welcome vacation” from the Internet and social media during the trial. Four white women were added as alternate jurors.
The trial and one that began Monday in Charleston, South Carolina, for another white former police officer facing a murder charge for the shooting of a black man are among cases over the last two years that have increased attention to how black people are treated by police in the United States. The two shootings occurred after traffic stops.
Mathews said a missing front license plate wasn’t the primary reason Tensing pulled DuBose over near campus, calling it “a more serious situation than that.”
He also emphasized that Tensing is presumed innocent. He objected after assistant prosecutor Rick Gibson said Tensing had “admitted in a taped interview” with police investigators that he purposely killed DuBose. The two sides then met in chambers with the judge.
Gibson said almost every juror has some knowledge of the case, which prompted protests in the city. But he said knowing about the case wasn’t a problem, as long as jurors followed the law and decided the case based on the evidence.
Both sides asked potential jurors about a widely viewed video from Tensing’s body-worn camera and warned it and other evidence are graphic. Mathews said the video doesn’t show the angle the officer was viewing nor “what the person wearing that camera perceives in his brain or feels in his gut.”
Tensing’s attorney has said he feared for his life as DuBose tried to drive off. Tensing, who could face up to life in prison if convicted of murder, took notes and sipped bottled water at the defense table. He also is charged with voluntary manslaughter.
The University of Cincinnati fired him after his indictment and overhauled its public safety department.
The judge said she expects the trial to end by Nov. 18.
Eighty-five people were summoned Monday from a jury pool of nearly 200. The pool members last week filled out 25-page questionnaires asking what they knew about the case and their perceptions of police and the courts and about some related topics such as the Black Lives Matter group.
Members of the activist group were among dozens of people demonstrating outside the courthouse Monday.
The judge assured the potential jurors of safeguards for their anonymity, including her order to news media not to name them or show them in photos or on video.