Former University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing will face another trial for shooting unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose in the head and killing him during a July 19, 2015 traffic stop in Mount Auburn, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced today.
A previous jury could not agree on a conviction for Tensing, and Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Shanahan declared a mistrial Nov. 12. That led to protests from racial justice activists, faith leaders and others in the community. Interviews with jurors after the trial by the prosecutor’s office determined that jurors were split 10-2 on a manslaughter conviction, while three or four jurors would have voted for a murder conviction.
Deters said the state of Ohio will seek a change of venue for the retrial, but that the charges against Tensing — murder and involuntary manslaughter — will remain the same. The prosecutor named Cleveland or Columbus as possibly attractive sites for a retrial, claiming the media saturation around the case here made it impossible for jurors to be fair and impartial.
“We are seeking justice,” Deters said at a news conference today announcing his decision. “It is my belief that Sam DuBose was murdered. Period… in the country I love, you don't get shot in the head for getting pulled over at a traffic stop."
The state’s police union reacted quickly to the announcement, sending out a news release before Deters’ news conference was over. In that release, Ohio Fraternal Order of Police President Jay McDonald admonished media and court officials to act “more responsibly” to avoid “a circus-like atmosphere.”
"Hamilton County has already spent more than a half million dollars of tax payer money on this case and to retry it with the exact same charges is wasteful and will likely produce the same results," McDonald wrote in the statement. "It’s important to note that while the previous jury was advised by experts, had the benefit of good lawyers advising them and all the time it needed to deliberate after the trial, it could not reach a verdict."
Various city officials have already called for a retrial, including Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati City Council, which last week unanimously passed a resolution asking Deters to take all necessary steps to hold Tensing accountable. Following the mistrial announcement, activist groups, including Cincinnati Black Lives Matter, vowed to continue protesting until a retrial was announced.
“We are pleased with Prosecutor Joseph Deters' decision to retry the case,” Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said in a statement following the announcement. “A new venue, while logistically challenging, could provide a better opportunity for a fair and impartial trial, and hopefully a unanimous jury verdict.”
UC fired Tensing shortly after he was indicted on July 29, 2015 for the shooting. His attorney Stew Mathews has argued that he was afraid for his life when he shot DuBose once in the head. Tensing originally made statements that he had been dragged by DuBose's car during the traffic stop. But a frame-by-frame analysis by a video expert at Tensing's trial showed that DuBose's car was still stationery a split second before Tensing fired, and that the officer's arm was not caught in the steering wheel as he had claimed it was.
It's unclear when Tensing's retrial will begin, or if Judge Shanahan will grant the prosecution's request for a change of venue.