CINCINNATI -- After three days of questioning, the judge in Ray Tensing's retrial seated a jury Wednesday. That means the trial will remain in Hamilton County, despite requests from both the defense and prosecution to relocate.
The jury is made up of seven white women, two white men, one black man and two black women. Two white men, one white woman and one black woman are alternates.
In Tensing's first trial, the jury was made up of two black women, four white women and six white 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.
Why is this noteworthy?
Potential jurors were asked about race, police, Black Lives Matter, media exposure and knowledge of the first trial during voir dire on Friday, Monday and Tuesday. Several jurors said they already formed opinions about Tensing's guilt or innocence, but those jurors were dismissed.
Tensing, a white man and former University of Cincinnati officer, shot and killed Samuel DuBose, a black man, during a traffic stop on July 19, 2015. The incident happened as many protest shootings involving officers and black men and women.
Seating the jury
On Friday, 180 potential jurors reported to the courthouse; the number was cut nearly in half, to 95, by Monday. Tuesday afternoon, the defense began questioning the 28 jurors approved by the prosecution.
Judge Leslie Ghiz said the 12 jurors and four alternates would then bus to the scene on Rice Street in Mount Auburn where Tensing killed DuBose.
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.
Prosecutor Joe Deters said Tensing shot DuBose "because he was mad" and pulled DuBose over on "a chicken-shit (traffic) stop."
Deters called the shooting "asinine" and "senseless." Deters tried the first case against Tensing, which ended in a hung jury. Deters is not trying Tensing a second time; Tieger and Assistant Prosecutor Stacey DeGraffenreid are prosecuting the retrial.
Defense attorney Stew Mathews said Tuesday Tensing will testify in his retrial, as he did in the first trial last November.
Tensing faces the same charges as in his first trial: murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Judge battles with the media
The judge hearing the retrial has been at odds with local and national media since being assigned the case in November.
WCPO/Scripps and other local outlets sued the judge over exceptionally strict guidelines for media coverage of the trial. The Ohio District Court of Appeals sided with WCPO in its initial suit against Ghiz, saying her restrictions -- which she planned to enforce via a "waiver" -- were made without any court hearing.
Ghiz relaxed some of her restrictions on media coverage after a hearing. She didn't, however, pass up an opportunity to put the media on blast.
"This is a court of law, and I think the media has forgotten that," Ghiz said. "And it’s offensive.
"I’m at the end of my rope with the media. It’s ridiculous, and the only reason it’s there is to sell papers and have people click their websites," Ghiz said.
Media outlets filed more suits against Ghiz after she said she planned to release redacted questionnaires at the conclusion of the trial.
WCPO's most recent suit specifically seeks:
- Release of questionnaires filled out by 180 prospective jurors;
- The same access to the courtroom as members of the public if WCPO is not one of the media outlets to win the lottery for media seats established by Ghiz. Ghiz has reserved seats for the public on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Free use of electronic devices in the courtroom and the fifth-floor hallway, banned by Ghiz.
- Freedom to photograph and record prospective jurors, jurors, witnesses and victims, banned by Ghiz.
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.
Read more about the suit here.
“WCPO has clear legal right to the completed questionnaires with Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers and phone numbers redacted," the suit says. “If the retrial proceeds under the current order (and with no completed juror questionnaires available for public inspection) the public and the press will not be able to meaningfully observe the proceedings and their First Amendment rights will be eviscerated.”
The Ohio Supreme Court has previously ruled that juror questionnaires are public record.
Ghiz threatened to throw all of the media out of her courtroom if a prospective juror’s image shows up on TV, online or in print.
Ghiz also named three jurors -- presumably by mistake -- during the duration of voir dire.
Motions from the defense and the prosecution to move the trial out of town – both sides blamed the media for turning the proceedings into a "circus" – will also cast a shadow over the goings-on this week.
Ghiz has argued her rulings are necessary to protect jurors’ identity and safety and to ensure a fair trial. She had suggested that prospective jurors would decline to serve if they know their names would be released, or if they could be photographed as members of the jury.
For complete trial coverage, visit wcpo.com/TensingTrial.
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