Judge Leslie Ghiz admonishes media, threatens to kick them out of court during Ray Tensing retrial

'One step out of line and that's the end of it'
Posted at 11:11 AM, Jun 02, 2017

CINCINNATI -- The judge in Ray Tensing's retrial admonished the media in court Friday, saying they have threatened a fair trial in the interest of getting viewers and selling newspapers.

Judge Leslie Ghiz warned she would kick out all media if even one of them accidentally or intentionally violates her order on media coverage.

"This is a court of law. I think the media has forgotten that," Ghiz said in a lengthy harangue before starting jury selection. 

"I think the media thinks that it is their duty to walk in and to voir dire this, or to question this jury panel as if they were conducting voir dire, and it’s offensive.

"I am telling you: One step out of line and that's the end of it ...  I’m at the end of my rope with the media."

WATCH Ghiz's comments here and read them below:

Earlier, Tensing's attorney, Stew Mathews, also blasted the media in making a motion to dismiss the prospective jurors. Mathews asked Ghiz to put the trial in abeyance "until the media finishes telling you how to conduct the trial." 

Mathews blamed the media for causing a week delay in the trial schedule and suggested the  prospective jurors called to voir dire Friday may have checked some of the media coverage during that time, against the judge's orders. Ghiz denied the motion.

Mathews also joined the prosecution in asking for a change of venue. Ghiz said she would take that under advisement. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said in January he wanted to move the trial to Columbus or Cleveland because of the extensive media coverage of the first trial last November. Mathews asked for a change of venue before and after the first trial.

RELATED: Scripps/WCPO sues Ghiz

Ghiz said her goal is ensuring a fair trial and she said the media is not interested in that.

Ghiz also mocked the media by saying: "I can see the headlines now. They’re beautiful.” 

Here's the text of Ghiz's statement about the media before jury selection began Friday:

“This is the deal -- this is a court of law, and I think the media has forgotten that. I think the media thinks that it is their duty to walk in and to voir dire this, or to question this jury panel as if they were conducting voir dire, and it’s offensive. It’s not only offensive to the law and to this court, it’s offensive to every person out there because every person out there deserves a fair trial, regardless of what you are charged with.

"I don’t always like it when defendants are in front of me. I don’t like the charges, but they have a right to be heard. They have a right to have the state prove their case. They have a right to have witnesses presented without the interference of the media.  It serves nobody in this community, not one person, for the media to behave in the manner that they have. They have, you have, down to what somebody is wearing, down to requesting personnel files, down to, like that is of any interest to the public.  What’s of interest to this public is that this trial is seen through in this county and that the defendant gets a fair trial because if he doesn’t get a fair trial, the next person who walks through here doesn’t get a fair trial.

"That’s how it works, everybody gets one, and I understand that there are victims in this matter. I do, and it pains me. There are victims in every case, and it is awful to sit here and see the pain on their face when you’re sitting here listening to this stuff. But that’s not the point. The point is everybody deserves a fair trial, and the victims deserve to have this taken care of one way or the other, and the media has not aided them in that.

"I’m done with being on my soapbox for right now, but I am telling you, one step out of line, that’s the end of it. I’ve really -- I’m at the end of my rope with the media, and with the cameras, and with the videotaping, and with the asking people for interviews, and trying to find out where someone lives and trying to talk about what they do. It’s ridiculous, and the only reason it’s there is to sell papers and have people click their websites. I have no interest in it at this point.

"OK -- with regard to -- oh, and that said, I will follow the law. I will do what the law requires of me, and I will make sure that you get a fair and impartial trial, Mr. Ray Tensing. I will do everything possible to make that happen in my power, and  I will also follow the law as it is applied to me with regard to the media and told to me from a higher court. So don’t. I can see the headlines now. They’re beautiful.” 

Earlier, the judge specifically warned that if an image of a prospective juror or juror shows up on TV, online or print, she will ban all media from her court.

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.

Ghiz imposed harsher-than-usual restrictions on media coverage last week, prompting attorneys for WCPO and other outlets to appeal to the Ohio's First District Court of Appeals. The appeals court ruled that she had acted unconstitutionally and ordered her to hold a hearing on media access and restrictions before reissuing them.

Thursday's hearing was contentious as Ghiz and media attorneys went back and forth.

Ghiz refused one attorney's repeated requests to rule on the release of juror questionnaires. The media has sought the questionnaires so the media and the public would have knowledge of the prospective jurors before the jury was seated. But Ghiz, who said she opposes the release of the questionnaires until after the trial, did not rule and voir dire went on without them. 

Ghiz also heatedly rejected one attorney's suggestion that moving the trial to Judge's Megan Shanahan courtroom, where Tensing's first trial was held, would resolve problems with media access.

In a ruling several hours later, the judge allowed the media to use electronic devices in the media room but kept the ban on their use in court and limits on the number of media members allowed into the proceedings.

Jury selection was delayed three days in the process of determining media access.

Tensing, a former University of Cincinnati police officer, is charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting black motorist Samuel DuBose during a traffic stop July 19, 2015. Tensing has claimed his use of force was justified, saying DuBose’s car dragged him as DuBose tried to drive off from a traffic stop and left Tensing in fear for his life.

Tensing's first trial ended in a hung jury.

See all of WCPO's coverage of the Tensing trial at