From the moment that University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing pulled over Sam DuBose in a routine traffic stop last year it seemed like this case was going to be contentious. As you’ll recall, DuBose refused to comply with orders to remove his seat belt and exit his vehicle, instead starting up the engine and preparing to leave the scene. The confrontation ended with Tensing shooting DuBose once in the head, killing him. The conflicting stories of how things escalated so quickly led to Tensing being fired and put on trial for murder. That trial ended in a hung jury earlier this year.
Now the prosecutor is looking at a new trial, but the move includes a highly unusual request. The state is looking to move the trial to a new location away from the community where the incident took place. (Associated Press)
A prosecutor’s widely expected decision to retry a white former police officer on a murder charge in the traffic-stop shooting of a black man came with the surprise that he wants to move the next trial out of the Cincinnati area.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced plans for the request on Tuesday as he said he would try fired University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing on the same charges on which jurors deadlocked. A judge declared a mistrial Nov. 12 after jurors remained hung after 25 hours of deliberations. The charges are murder and voluntary manslaughter in the July 19, 2015, fatal shooting of Sam DuBose.
Deters says he wants a jury in another Ohio county, away from intense local attention.
This may have happened somewhere else in the past but I can’t recall a specific instance. Normally when you see a request for a change of venue it comes from the defendant because the defense fears they won’t be able to get a fair trial due to intense local interest in the case. The prosecutor in this case is making what seems to be the opposite argument. He’s claiming that jurors were afraid of the backlash they might face if they convicted the cop.
I suppose that’s not out of bounds under the rules, but it’s certainly unusual. Should the prosecutor be shopping around for a county where he can obtain a conviction?
This case has always been problematic for me from the beginning. There was nothing wrong with the initial police stop since the laws there require vehicles to have a license plate. It’s also difficult to simply write off the possibility that Tensing felt in danger of his life. DuBose had an extensive rap sheet dating back decades which included a couple of assault charges, trafficking drugs and scores of minor offenses.
But none of that justifies shooting somebody in their car unless he represented a reasonable threat to the officer or the public. Watching the video from Tensing’s body camera has been less than helpful in my opinion. It all comes down to a critical period of roughly three seconds when DuBose starts his vehicle and seems ready to flee the scene. Did he have Tensing’s arm trapped in some fashion where he might have been either dragged by the vehicle or run over? I honestly don’t see it, but I also can’t rule it out becaue the camera angle is terrible as the scuffle begins and then bounces around as Tensing chases the car down the road. It’s in that area of uncertainty that the defense seems to have raised sufficient questions to avoid a conviction.
But getting back to the original point, it seems quite strange to see the prosecution asking for a change of venue rather than the defense. If the request is granted and they wind up getting a conviction in a different county, the appeals process could get seriously ugly.