Juror questionnaire goes to the heart of Ray Tensing defense, prosecution

Judge releases list of 194 questions
Posted at 2:12 PM, May 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 09:56:34-04

CINCINNATI -- “Do you believe that an automobile can ever be used as a deadly weapon?”

“Do you believe that law enforcement officers have a legal right and duty to protect themselves from the threat of grievous bodily harm or death through the use of force up to an including deadly force?”

Those questions go to the heart of Ray Tensing’s defense in the fatal shooting of Sam DuBose and are two of 178 questions on the 23-page document attorneys gave to prospective jurors last week in advance of the former University of Cincinnati police officer’s retrial.

“If you saw the (body-camera) video, what do you think after seeing the video as to whether or not the shooting of Samuel DuBose by Ray Tensing was justified?”

“If the evidence is sufficient and the law calls for a verdict of Guilty of Murder, can you sign such a verdict in this case?”

Those two questions are at the center of the prosecution’s case.

Read the questionnaire below.

Judge Leslie Ghiz released the blank questionnaire on the Clerk of Courts website Tuesday.

Other questions touch on opinions about race, whether police target African-Americans, other police killings of African-Americans, Black Lives Matter, guns, crime, body cameras, UC police practices and whether jurors feared about their private information going public when the completed questionnaires would be released to the public.

All of those were issues in the first trial.

Prospective jurors were asked if they have knowledge of the first trial and can put it aside and “go into this new trial with a totally open mind not influenced by anything you have seen, heard read or discussed in the past.”

Local attorney Merlyn Shiverdecker told WCPO there are two purposes for having a juror questionnaire.

“Ostensibly, what you're trying to do is get a fair and impartial jury,” Shiverdecker said. “Obviously, what you're really trying to do is get a jury where jurors are more sympathetic to your position and less sympathetic to the other side.”

Before selecting a jury, counsel for both sides and Ghiz reviewed the questionnaires over the weekend and will get a chance to quiz jurors about their answers in a courtroom session known as voir dire. That was supposed to start Tuesday, but Ghiz delayed it at least until Thursday while she works on new rules to restrict media access and keep jurors names secret.

A total of 180 prospective jurors filled out the questionnaire and are still in the juror pool out of the 1,000 originally summoned.

The questionnaire is similar to the one from last November’s first trial that ended in a hung jury. That form had 25 pages and 194 questions but, obviously, none about the first trial.

Tensing claims he shot DuBose in self-defense after a traffic stop on July 19, 2015. Tensing said he got his arm caught in DuBose’s car as DuBose started to drive away from the stop and tried to run him over. Tensing said he shot DuBose in the head “to stop the threat.”

But Tensing’s body camera video disproves that, prosecutors said. Frame-by-frame analysis of the video showed Tensing fired the shot as the car lurched forward 1-2 feet, a forensic video analyst testified. And the assistant coroner who performed the autopsy on DuBose said the shot was fired in a downward trajectory, not upward, so Tensing couldn’t have fired as he fell as Tensing claimed.

Personal biases entered into the jury room during thew first trial, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said. Deters said that was one of the reasons he asked for a change of venue for the second trial.

Deters said he talked to some jurors after the trial and they were deadlocked 4-4-4 with an equal number favoring conviction on the murder charge, conviction on the voluntary manslaughter and acquittal.

Because DuBose was black and Tensing is white, many questions focus on race, including:

124. “Is there any racial or ethnic group that you do not feel comfortable around?”

126. “Have you ever had a negative or frightening experience with a person of another race?”

128. “Some races and/or ethnic groups tend to be more violent than others. Agree, Disagree, No Opinion.”

Tensing said he stopped DuBose because his car was missing a front license plate. Tensing issued 83.5 percent of his tickets to minority drivers, prosecutor Joe Deters said during the first trial. That information apparently led to these questions:

27. “Do you believe that law enforcement officers should not take action of any type when they observe what many would consider ‘minor’ violations of the law?”

115. “There has been a lot of discussion about the number of unarmed African-Americans shot by police officers. Do you feel there are problems in in this area, and what do you think are the causes of the problems?”

116. “Do you believe that law enforcement officers target African-Americans and other minorities for arrests and ticketing?”

Some jurors in the first trial expressed fear of retribution if they were identified when  their questionnaires were released to the media.  That probably led to this question:

150. “Are you concerned about your personal safety, reputation or standing in your community among family, friends and associated should you be asked to serve on the jury in this case?”

This question may have required the most introspection:

171. "Is there any reason why, if you were the defendant, you would not want someone in your state of mind on the jury?"

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