Joe Deters on Tensing case: 'Shut up and let us do our job'

Prosecutor criticized from both sides
Posted at 5:28 PM, Oct 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-26 23:27:31-04

CINCINNATI -- Thousands of people will watch Ray Tensing's murder trial live. Thousands more, and likely millions, will talk about it.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has one request: "I just wish everyone would just shut up and let us do our job, because we are pretty good at it."

Watch the extended interview below:


Deters has taken criticism from both sides of the case. Some say he went too far when he announced the indictment of Tensing, a former University of Cincinnati police officer, on charges of murder and manslaughter for the shooting death of Samuel DuBose. Tensing "should never have been a police officer," Deters said in July 2015, and he overreacted during "a pretty chicken-crap stop."

IN DEPTH: Legal experts divided on Deters' remarks

Then Tuesday, as potential jurors arrived to the courthouse to fill out questionnaires, Deters kicked a Black Lives Matter representative and two others out of Judge Megan Shanahan's courtroom just moments before Tensing walked in with his attorney and family members.

Tensing is white; DuBose was black.

"I don't have a relationship with (Black Lives Matter)," Deters said. "But they started getting mouthy with me. I told them, 'You know what? In about 12 seconds, you're getting thrown out of here,' and they were. And they're not allowed back. We're not here to have a mistrial. We're here to deliver justice to the community."


Deters frequently talks about DuBose's mother, who stood nearby as he announced the murder indictment; he says he recognizes a family lost a son and a father, a brother and a friend.

The larger significance of the case isn't lost on Deters, though: He's never seen a police officer charged with murder in Cincinnati.

"But the law applies to prosecutors, to police, to the general public, to the mayor, to everybody," he said. "You know, you can't selectively pick and choose, when someone violates the law, that you're not going to go after a certain group of people."

And, he said, he's confident he can get a conviction.

"Murder is not that complicated. It's the purposeful killing of another human being, and we think we can prove it."

No one questions whether Tensing shot DuBose in the head during a traffic stop in the city's Mount Auburn neighborhood on July 19, 2015. Tensing's own body-worn camera recorded the fatal shooting.

RELATED: How video differed from report of UC shooting

The question is why. Stew Mathews, Tensing's defense attorney, has argued DuBose refused to get out of the car and sped away, dragging the police officer with him. Tensing feared for his life, Mathews said.

Deters argues that's not true: DuBose tried to roll away from the stop -- his car moved maybe 15 inches, Deters said -- and Tensing killed him.

He'd originally pulled over DuBose for a license plate violation.

"You don't get shot in the head for that," Deters said. "This is America. This isn't Afghanistan. You don't get shot in the head. You're missing a front license plate? You don't get shot in the head."

Shanahan ruled Wednesday that Mathews will be allowed to tell jurors about marijuana found in DuBose's car after Tensing shot him. Mathews said Tensing saw a bottle labeled "gin" on the car's floorboard, and DuBose told him it was air freshener -- something Mathews said led Tensing to believe DuBose might be transporting drugs, with the air freshener to cover the scent.

But Shanahan also said the defense team couldn't bring up DuBose's prior criminal record, his medical history or blood tests about the amount of marijuana in his system when he died.


"It's what we expected, and the judge did the right thing," Deters said. "If we tried to introduce bad acts of the defendant, we would get laughed out of court. ... We see this in rape cases all the time, defense attorneys try to bring in the reputation of the victim, and it's not admissible at all."

Potential jurors went through orientation Tuesday and filled out a 25-page questionnaire that included questions about their background, attitudes toward police and whether they’ve heard of Black Lives Matter. The questionnaire also asked their political affiliation, whether they have had negative experiences with law enforcement and whether they can be fair and impartial.

MORE: See the whole questionnaire

Attorneys will review the questionnaires and begin actual questioning next week to seat a jury. Actual testimony isn't likely to begin before Nov. 7.

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