CINCINNATI — Jurors began deliberations Monday in the murder retrial of a white University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black motorist after pulling him over for a missing front license plate.
The panel will reconvene Tuesday morning. The jurors were sequestered Monday evening after about three hours of deliberations.
The nine whites and three blacks on the jury heard testimony from more than 20 witnesses and saw more than 100 pieces of evidence presented in Ray Tensing’s trial on murder and voluntary manslaughter charges in the July 2015 death of Sam DuBose. A jury of 10 whites and two blacks hung on those charges in November after some 25 hours of deliberations, and the judge declared a mistrial.
Much of the retrial focused on a three-minute segment of Tensing’s body camera video and dueling interpretations of what it shows.
Tensing, 27, and attorney Stewart Mathews maintain that DuBose stepped on the accelerator and the vehicle was moving. Tensing said his arm was trapped and he feared DuBose, 43, would use his car to kill him. Mathews said he acted reasonably in trying to “stop the threat.”
Prosecutor Stacey DeGraffenreid showed frame after frame of video in her closing argument Monday morning, asserting that the car wasn’t moving until about one second before Tensing fired the fatal shot. Tensing wasn’t in reasonable fear of his life when he made the decision to shoot DuBose, she told jurors.
She said Tensing repeatedly used “buzzwords” to try to justify the shooting because he had been taught that the law says officers are justified in using deadly force if they fear they are in danger of death or serious physical harm.
Mathews, in his summation, said prosecution experts failed to consider Tensing’s words on the audiotape that accompanies the video. “Why would anybody yell, ‘Stop, stop!’ at a car that wasn’t moving?” Mathews asked.
Mathews said questioning his actions are “20/20 hindsight.”
Prosecutor Seth Tieger told jurors there was sufficient evidence to prove that Tensing committed murder and purposely killed DuBose without justification.
Tieger also said that if they can’t agree on murder, there is at least enough evidence to prove the lesser charge, which alleges that DuBose provoked Tensing into shooting him in a “sudden fit of rage or passion.” Tieger said that it was a “slam-dunk” manslaughter case and that the lesser charge is offered to prevent a “miscarriage of justice.”
Jurors are unaware that prosecutors sought an even lower charge; Judge Leslie Ghiz denied that request last week.
Mathews countered that jurors should pay attention to DuBose’s actions, too. He argued that DuBose caused the situation to turn deadly. He suggested DuBose was determined to get away because DuBose knew police would have discovered more than $2,620 cash in the car along with 200 grams of marijuana – enough to justify a felony charge.
Tensing took the stand in his own defense, tearing up Friday as he insisted he wanted to “stop the threat” of being killed. He also testified in his first trial.
The case is among a number across the United States in recent years that have increased debate about race and policing.
In another, a Minnesota police officer was acquitted Friday of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, a black motorist who had just informed the officer that he was carrying a gun. Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is Latino, testified that Castile was pulling his gun out of his pocket despite commands not to.
Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.