CINCINNATI -- It appears that a change of venue won't be needed in Ray Tensing's murder retrial.
Jury selection is on course to be finished Wednesday morning, and Judge Leslie Ghiz announced plans for the 12 jurors and four alternates to visit the shooting scene after that.
After three days of voir dire, all that's left to finalize the jury is four challenges each for the prosecution and defense.
There were four blacks (three women, one man) and eight whites (five women, three men) seated in the jury box Tuesday, but the makeup is likely to change after the peremptory challenges, when each side can remove four jurors without cause. The alternates, at this point, are one black man and three whites (two women, one man).
Then the trial will get under way in earnest. Ghiz said the jury will bus to the scene on Rice Street in Mount Auburn where Tensing, then a University of CIncinnati police officer, shot and killed Sam DuBose, a black motorist, during a traffic stop on July 19, 2015.
Defense attorney Stew Mathews confirmed Tuesday that Tensing will testify in the retrial, as he did in the first trial last November. That ended in a hung jury.
Both sides had requested a change of venue last week and Ghiz had taken that under advisement. But Ghiz said she was determined to seat a fair and impartial jury in Hamilton County.
There were 24 prospective jurors left when voir dire ended Tuesday afternoon. Nine jurors were excused Tuesday with cause - five under questioning from Assistant Prosecutor Seth Tieger and four once Mathews had a chance to ask questions.
Two jurors were dismissed due to posts on their respective Facebook pages. Mathews' team found one juror's link to a change.org petition to "ensure Samuel DuBose's death is not in vain" and end missing front license plate traffic stops. The other potential juror, a member of Black Lives Matter, had a photo that said "convict Ray Tensing, justice to Sam DuBose," Mathews said.
Black Lives Matter was repeatedly referenced in Tuesday’s questioning, as in these exchanges:
Mathews: “You indicated that Black Lives Matter is bringing attention to unjust killings of African Americans by law enforcement. Do you mean by that that any African-American who dies at the hand of law enforcement has been unjustly killed?
Tieger: “You said it's a group reading racial hate under the guise of doing good. Tell me about your thoughts on that?
Juror: “All people matter. I mean, no matter your religion, your race. It all matters.”
As jury selection wound down, many questions and answers focused on DuBose not following Tensing's orders. Here were some comments from prospective jurors:
“I feel like if a police officer asks you to do something, you should do it. OK?
“Obviously it's unfortunate, but I don't think the situation would have happened if he had just listened and followed directions.
“If he had obeyed the police officer asking for this stop, instead of shutting the door as we've seen on the video and trying to start the car, I believe the man would still be alive.”
“I feel he should have complied and I think everything that happened after that is a tragedy.”
Other questions asked Monday and Tuesday dealt with race, police, prejudice and media exposure. Several potential jurors said they already formed opinions on Tensing's guilt or innocence.
In Tensing's first trial, the jury was made up of two black women and 10 whites (four women, six men). Prosecutor Joe Deters said two black men were chosen to sit on the jury, but said they didn't want to take part in the trial.
Tensing claimed his use of force was justified, saying DuBose's car dragged him as DuBose started to drive off and left Tensing in fear for his life.
Tensing faces the same charges as in his first trial: murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Last year when jurors went to Rice Street, they traveled in two sheriff's vans with tinted windows to guard their identity. While Ghiz has banned the media from photographing jurors, Ghiz advised them there was nothing she could do to shield them from residents and the rest of the public. Ghiz advised them to wear sunglasses or stay in the bus if they are concerned.
The retrial -- already several days behind schedule -- could be interrupted by another ruling from the Ohio First District Court of Appeals after Scripps/WCPO and several other media outlets in town sued the judge. That will depend on whether the appeals court rules on Ghiz’s stated refusal to release the prospective jurors’ questionnaires until after the trial and her stricter-than-usual limitations on media access to the courtroom.
NOTE: WCPO does not publish juror names or images that show jurors' identities without the permission of those jurors. However, WCPO believes it is important for journalists to be able to contact jurors and talk to them about what happened during the trial and deliberations -- if jurors are willing to talk.