CINCINNATI – Scripps/WCPO fired back at Judge Leslie Ghiz Monday and accused her of misrepresenting the purpose and intentions of the media when she launched a Friday tirade against local outlets and their coverage of the Ray Tensing retrial.
WCPO and its parent company went back to appeals court Monday and took action against Ghiz for the third time during the trial, asking for permission to add new information to WCPO's previous complaint. WCPO asked Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals to order Ghiz to immediately release prospective juror questionnaires and drop certain restrictions she has imposed on media coverage.
SEE the Supplemental Emergency Petition and Complaint for Writ of Prohibition and Mandamus below.
WCPO had asked the appeals court last Friday for relief against Ghiz’s orders, but the court didn’t immediately rule. WCPO based its supplemental motion Monday on Ghiz’s posted decision late Friday not to release the questionnaires until after the trial - and only in redacted form.
In the meantime, the judge castigated the media before the start of jury selection Friday morning.
Among other things, Ghiz said the media had turned the proceedings into a “circus,” accusing the media of interfering with the proceedings to “sell papers and have people click their websites.” The judge threatened to throw all media out of her courtroom for good and to ban livestreaming if any one accidentally and intentionally violated her order not to photograph prospective jurors.
The motion filed Monday also cited as new information the polling of prospective jurors in Ghiz''s courtroom Friday afternoon. 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.
But Monday's motion says 57 of the 111 prospective jurors polled in court Friday afternoon -- more than three times the number of jurors needed -- remained willing to serve if the questionnaires were released.
Furthermore, it says Ghiz's statements against WCPO and the media "ignore the role of the media in a functioning democracy and mischaracterize WCPO's purpose in trying to ensure that there is transparency in the Tensing trial.
“WCPO is exercising and defending its and the public First Amendment right of access” to the trial, it says.
WATCH Ghiz's comments against the media here and read them below:
The motion argues that the media’s presence at voir dire ensures “openness that enhances both the basic fairness of the criminal trial and the appearance of fairness so essential to public confidence.”
The motion referred to Ghiz's two-and-a-half minute harangue before voir dire Friday, when she said the media had turned the proceedings into a circus “under the guise of it being in the best interest of the public.”
According to the suit, Ghiz went on to say:
“This is a court of law. And I think the media has forgotten that. I think the media thinks that this 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 at 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 soap box for right now. But I am telling you, the one step out of line, that’s the end of it. I really am 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 the 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 your websites. I have no interest in it at this point.
"And with 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. 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.”
WCPO's 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.
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 Ray Tensing's retrial at WCPO.com/TensingTrial.