Did prosecutors just destroy Ray Tensing's defense?

Video analysis disputes Tensing's statements

CINCINNATI – Seeing is believing.

Whoever coined that phrase must have had a preview of the prosecution's video presentation in the Ray Tensing trial Thursday.

The frame-by-frame analysis aimed to snuff any reasonable doubt out of Judge Megan Shanahan's courtroom.

If seeing the body-camera video of the former University of Cincinnati police officer shooting Sam DuBose on a traffic stop wasn't compelling enough, the jury saw it broken down by milliseconds -- with pointers and timers and more gadgets than you've seen on crime TV -- while they listened to a former cop and FBI instructor explain in simple terms what they were watching.

It was one thing to watch Tensing shoot DuBose in the head in shaky, blurred video, and quite another thing seeing it happen in a sequence of clearer, still images that aimed to dispute every reason Tensing has given for killing DuBose.

The jury started its day by watching Tensing's videotaped interview with Cincinnati Police homicide investigators two days after he shot DuBose in the head on a Mount Auburn street in 2015.

For the most part, Tensing appeared calm and casual – and rehearsed – in the video, sitting in the small police interview room (just like the ones on TV) with two investigators questioning him across a table and an FOP attorney sitting silently nearby. Tensing repeated his claim that DuBose was dragging him and speeding away.

"I was thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm getting dragged by this guy's car. I don't wanna die today.' I'm in fear of my life,"  Tensing said.

A short time later, the jury saw a totally different version of what happened.

Taking key moments in Tensing's video frame-by-frame, Grant Fredericks, a certified forensic video analyst from Washington, appeared to disprove almost every claim made by Tensing and his counsel regarding what happened in the seconds before, during and after the shooting.

 

In the final analysis, Fredericks said the video images proved that:

  • Tensing pointed his gun at DuBose's head before the car moved and shot less than a second later.
  • Tensing wasn't dragged by DuBose's car. He was standing erect outside the car when he fired the one deadly shot.
  • Tensing's arm wasn't caught in the steering wheel or any other part of the car, nor was DuBose using his left arm to restrain Tensing's. Frederick's image from the video shows DuBose cowering and holding his left arm in front of his face when he was shot.
  • The car didn't move until eight-tenths of a second before DuBose was shot. Fredericks said the movement wasn't more than 1 or 2 feet forward.
  • After the shot, Tensing fell backward, and DuBose's car moved forward and out of control. But Tensing was never hit by the car.

Fredericks made his determination about the car's movement by using points of reference in the background outside – an SUV parked in a driveway and a fence post. He pointed them out in the sequence of images and said their relationship to DuBose's car didn't change until it moved just before the shot.

For all of his wizardry at video editing and PowerPoint, Fredericks also cited something simple -- the air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror -- to show when the car started to move. The bottom was perpendicular to the car's "A" frame while the car was stationary, he said. It swayed when the car moved.

Look for that air freshener evidence on the next episode of CSI.

By the time Fredericks was finished, Tensing's defense appeared shattered.

Tensing's attorney, Stew Mathews, tried to dispute the evidence but ended up sounding frustrated. He mocked Fredericks instead.

Mathews first demanded to know how much the prosecution had paid him. Fredericks hemmed and hawed and said he didn't know. He finally said more than $5,000.

Mathews wasn't satisfied.

"More than $10,000?" he demanded to know.

"I would be guessing," Fredericks said.

"You seem to be guessing about a lot of things," Mathews said.

The judge ordered that stricken from the record.

Mathews has promised his own video analysis during defense testimony. Whatever his expert does, he or she should bring an air freshener.

At the end of Day 3 Thursday, the prosecution unfolded a life-size cardboard cutout of DuBose's car to use as evidence Friday.

This should be interesting. 

For more Tensing trial coverage, go to wcpo.com/TensingTrial

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