CINCINNATI -- As she sealed off a portion of the court transcript from Ray Tensing's retrial, Judge Leslie Ghiz argued that she did so as "community unrest pulsate(d) through a city with a history of racial strife" and publicizing the transcripts could endanger Tensing's right to a third fair trial.
Tensing, a white former officer of the University of Cincinnati Police Department, shot and killed motorist Sam DuBose, who was black, during a traffic stop in 2015. He has been tried twice for murder and voluntary manslaughter in connection to the shooting; both juries became hopelessly deadlocked and failed to reach a verdict.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will decide this month whether or not to try Tensing a third time.
It was in the interest of that hypothetical third trial that Ghiz said she sealed the transcripts of two questions the retrial jury asked the court during their deliberation.
She argued that making those questions public would create more analysis and further polarization of opinions about the case in Hamilton County, making it more difficult to find impartial jurors in the future.
"Publication of the jury questions …. would invariably lead to analysis or the expression of opinions on the jury and the case based on less than complete information, which could taint prospective jurors," Ghiz wrote.
DuBose's death in 2015 occurred amid a rash of highly publicized incidents in which black men -- many of them unarmed -- died at the hands of police officers, and race has figured prominently into discussion of the case. Tensing was wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt under his uniform when the shooting occurred.
The local "history of racial strife" to which Ghiz referred stretches back nearly 20 years. In 2001, a Cincinnati police officer shot and killed a 19-year-old black man, Timothy Thomas, during an attempted arrest over accumulated misdemeanor charges. Like DuBose, Thomas was unarmed. The incidents that ended both their lives began with traffic violations.
Outrage over Thomas' death culminated in large-scale civil unrest, boycotts of downtown businesses and comprehensive reforms to policing practices in the city of Cincinnati. Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac has frequently reiterated that Tensing was a university officer, not a city officer, at the time of the incident.