Tensing to be retried on same charges, prosecutor wants change of venue

Tensing to be retried on same charges, prosecutor wants change of venue
FOX19 NOW/file
FOX19 NOW/file

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Tuesday his office will retry former University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing on the same charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter - and he will try to move the trial out of the county.

"If I thought we could not win this case, we would not try it again," Deters said in a press conference. "I hope to do it in the spring."

He said his office was seeking to move the case out of the county because "public attention seeped into the jury room."

Deters said the community has been "saturated" with information about the case for over a year and, tensions grew so much that jurors at one point refused to come out of the jury room, delaying proceedings.

That occurred after Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Shanahan told jurors the media requested their questionnaires and she would release the documents after blocking out their personal information.

Twelve jurors were unable to unanimously agree to convict Tensing on a murder or voluntary manslaughter charge in the 2015 shooting death of Samuel DuBose after deliberating some 25 hours.

A mistrial was declared on Nov. 12.

At one point, Deters said Tuesday, the jury was 10-2 for a voluntary manslaughter conviction.

But he remained confident Tuesday his office would win a conviction this time.

"We are seeking justice. It is my belief that Sam DuBose was murdered. Period," Deters said. "Sam, according to a lot of accounts, was a good guy. He was in trouble a lot, but that doesn't make his life any less relevant or have less value.

"I have said a million times: In the country that I love, you don't get shot in the head for pulling over in a traffic stop and that's what happened here. It troubles me deeply that happened."

Tensing's attorney, Stew Mathews, opposes a change of venue, Deters said, an about-face from the defense's original stance.

Mathews requested a change of venue, saying Tensing couldn't get a fair trial in the county, but the judge denied the request once the jury was seated.

DuBose's family and their attorney, civil rights defense lawyer Al Gerhardstein,spoke at Deters' press conference.

They said they supported moving the next trial out of the county, a move Gerhardstein said is rare for a prosecutor to seek.

DuBose sister said her family would follow the trial wherever they needed to as they seek justice.

"Our lives have been on hold since Sam died," said Terina Allen.

"Wherever this trial is, we are going to be there....I am fighting for my brother and my son and every black man in America.... If this gets to stand and this is not murder, I don't think anybody is safe....I think police officers will be told there is no accountability."

The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio issued a statement so swiftly in rebuking Deters' announcement, it arrived at FOX19 NOW while he was still addressing the media.

"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," wrote union president, Jay McDonald.

"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 and it could not reach a verdict.

"Ray Tensing had to make a life or death judgment call in the matter of a split second. As a fellow police officer, I'm concerned about the dangerous precedent that this case could have on other officers who might hesitate in a moment when decision-making is literally life or death.

"This is especially meaningful at a time when police are being targeted and assassinated at a shocking rate.

"We're disappointed that Officer Tensing will be subjected to a second trial, but what's most important now is for him to get a fair hearing. That must start with the prosecutor and media acting more responsibly, without creating a circus atmosphere before, during and after the trial.

"We continue to stand with Officer Tensing."

Deters' options had included:

  • Re-try Tensing on the current charges. Murder is punishable 15 years to life in prison. Voluntary Manslaughter carries a three to 11-year prison sentence.
  • Drop the murder charge and retry him on the lesser one or drop both charges and ask a new grand jury to consider other lesser charges such as reckless homicide or negligent homicide.
  • Offer a plea deal on lesser charges.
  • No retrial

There is no end to the amount of times the case could go through retrial if the result continues to be a retrial, according to another FOX19 NOW legal expert, Mike Allen, the county's former prosecutor.

Some city leaders, ministers and Black Lives Matter Cincinnati have expressed disappointment in the outcome and been outspoken in calling for a second trial.

"I believe justice is holding Ray Tensing accountable for his actions," Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said in a press conference hours after the mistrial.

Last week, Cincinnati City Council unanimously approved a resolution "urging Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to take all steps necessary to pursue a retrial" of Ray Tensing.

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said in a prepared statement Tuesday she was pleased Deters "will continue to fight for justice for the Samuel DuBose family."

She also supports a change of venue.

"...while logistically challenging (it) could provide a better opportunity for  fair and impartial trial, and hopefully a unanimous jury verdict," her statement reads.

The president of the union that represents Cincinnati police, Sgt. Dan Hils, has called for public officials to refrain from publicly discussing or otherwise getting involved in the case at this point.

"I have no comment and neither should any other public official to strive for fairness in a possible future trial," he wrote on Support the Blue in Cincy Facebook page.

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