Morning News: Jurors questioned for Tensing trial; Clinton coming to Cincy; CPD records show use of force down, lingering racial disparities in shootings

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will be in Cincinnati today, adding to a parade of political VIPs on both sides of the partisan divide that have visited the city recently.

click to enlarge Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton

Happy Halloween! Hope your holiday weekend was as fun as mine was. Now it’s time for something really scary: the news.

Both defense attorneys and Hamilton County prosecutors in the Ray Tensing trial are beginning questioning of a large pool of potential jurors today at the Hamilton County courthouse. They’re working with Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Shanahan to winnow that pool down to a final, unbiased group of 12 jurors and four alternates needed as former UCPD officer Tensing stands trial on murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose. Last week, potential jurors filled out a 25-page questionnaire that attorneys and the judge in the case used to help filter out jurors who might be biased toward one side or the other. Jury selection in the trial could take a week or more, after which opening statements from both sides will begin.

About 40 protesters with Cincinnati Black Lives Matter chanted and held signs outside the courthouse as the jury selection moved forward. Many expressed skepticism that the trial would lead to a conviction for Tensing. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who is leading prosecution of the case, has said he thinks his office can win a conviction. But racial justice activists are wary of Deters, a Republican who has made sometimes-inflammatory comments about black defendants in the past.

• Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will be in Cincinnati today, adding to a parade of political VIPs on both sides of the partisan divide that have visited the city recently. Clinton will make an appearance at 6:15 today at Smale Riverfront Park in a last-minute effort to rally supporters ahead of the Nov. 8 election. Clinton has fought a pitched battle against GOP nominee Donald Trump for Ohio, a pivotal swing state. Recent polls have Clinton up by a few points here, but that’s a tenuous lead.

• Did Trump supporters turn up at the Hamilton County Board of Elections office to scare black voters? A tweet from an influential liberal activist posted Sunday makes that claim, but so far, little other evidence has been found to support the story — and officials deny the incident took place.

“Trump supporters — men with dogs — showed up at early voting polling place in Cincinnati to intimidate black voters. Yelling matches ensued,” Jim Wallis, a progressive activist and writer, posted on Twitter yesterday. The location stamp for the tweet is Washington, D.C., and Wallis has not responded to media requests following up on the claim. The only early voting location in Cincinnati is at the BOE office on Broadway Ave., and officials there say they are unaware of any incident. What’s more, no other people have come forward corroborating the claim. We’ll keep you updated if something surfaces, however.

• Newly-released data on the City of Cincinnati’s open data portal shows that the Cincinnati Police Department has sharply reduced the number of times it uses force against citizens. However, that data also shows that the number of police shootings that happen annually has stayed steady, and that those shootings still happen disproportionately to blacks. You can read more in our story here, but below are some of the takeaways.

In 2001, CPD records show 1,148 use-of-force incidents, compared to just 437 in 2015. This use-of-force data is not broken down by race on the city's website. Meanwhile, police shooting incidents have remained steady, averaging about four a year, with occasional dips and spikes in outlier years like 2011, when there were 10. In 2001, there were six police shooting incidents involving five black individuals and one white individual. 2015 also saw six police shooting incidents — five involved in the 2015 incidents were black, while one was Hispanic.  Since 2010, 28 black individuals have been involved in officer-involved shootings, while seven white individuals have been involved in similar incidents. That doesn’t include officers accidentally discharging their weapons or firing at animals, which are also included in the data released today. The data does not include information on fatalities. Cincinnati is about 45 percent black and 50 percent white.

• Warren County commissioners have asked that the county’s insurance provider discontinue coverage for gender reassignment and other procedures for transgender employees. The three Republican commissioners sent a letter last week to provider UnitedHealthcare asking it to remove coverage for treatments related to gender dysphoria from its insurance plan, citing savings to taxpayers as a motivation. The move comes about two years after Warren County resident transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide after her parents denied her access to gender reassignment procedures so she could complete a transition from male to female. Alcorn’s suicide garnered national attention.

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