Everything you should know as the Ray Tensing trial begins

Everything to know as the Tensing trial begins
Everything to know as the Tensing trial begins
Posted at 2:49 PM, Oct 25, 2016
and last updated 2020-07-24 08:45:17-04

CINCINNATI -- One of the most emotional and high-profile trials in Hamilton County history is about to begin.

The long process of selecting a jury in the murder trial of former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing began Tuesday and could last through next week. Tensing shot and killed Sam DuBose during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn in July 2015.

Here are some details of the case worth noting and clarifying before the start of the trial:

1. The trial itself starts Oct. 31, which is almost a year from the original set start date

The trial and pre-trial hearings were delayed for months, which caused the trial to start almost a year after the original trial start date, Nov. 16, 2015.

Witnesses aren't expected to be called to testify until Nov. 7, according to subpoenas, but they could be called as early as Nov. 4.

Here's a timeline from the fatal shooting through the start of the trial.

2. The shooting and traffic stop were captured on police body camera footage

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Tensing's body camera footage was the biggest component leading to Tensing's murder indictment.

Deters said the video refutes Tensing's claim that 43-year-old Sam DuBose pulled away from the stop and dragged Tensing with his car July 19 in Mount Auburn. Instead, it shows Tensing reaching through the driver's window and shooting DuBose -- point-blank -- in the head.

Watch the body camera video here. Read the transcript of the traffic stop here.

3. Tensing is charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter

If convicted, Tensing faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison on the murder charge and as much as 11 years on the manslaughter charge. Deters said he would seek life in prison for Tensing.

4. Sam DuBose's family has sued Ray Tensing

In February, DuBose's family filed a civil suit against Tensing. The suit accuses Tensing of excessive force, wrongful death, assault and battery, and seeks compensatory damages, attorney’s and court costs as well as any further restitution the court might deem appropriate.

“As a direct result…of Samuel DuBose’s wrongful death, Mr. DuBose’s survivors, next of kin and/or heirs have suffered permanent damages, including but not limited to, grief, depression, and severe emotional distress,” the suit alleges. “They have lost economic and emotional support, incurred funeral bills and other expenses and will incur additional expenses and losses in the future.”

5. Sam DuBose's family settled with UC for $4.85 million plus free tuition

In January, the family of Samuel DuBose settled with the University of Cincinnati for $4.85 million plus free tuition for DuBose's 13 children. The settlement agreement was announced on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The settlement also includes an "appropriate memorial commemorating Samuel DuBose" on UC's campus, a formal apology issued by university president Santa Ono, and an invitation for the DuBose family to take part in UCPD's Community Action Council to help aid campus police reform.

6. Tensing has been out on bond since July 30, 2015

The former cop posted 10 percent of his $1 million bond about six hours after he pleaded not guilty to both charges.

People from all over the country offered to help pay the $1 million bond, Tensing's attorney said.

Maj. Charmaine McGuffey, of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department, said Tensing was under suicide watch during his time behind bars.

7. Tensing pulled DuBose over for a missing front license plate

Tensing pulled DuBose over for a missing license plate off campus, on Rice Street near Thill Street in Mount Auburn. Traffic stops off campus were allowed -- even encouraged -- by the UCPD chief at the time. 

DuBose didn't have his license when Tensing pulled him over. DuBose apologized multiple times for not having his license, as shown in the body camera footage.

8. Tensing tried to get his job back at UCPD

Officials with the Fraternal Order of Police-Ohio Labor Council said Tensing filed a grievance with UC for breach of contract. Executive Director Cathy Brockman said the grievance was filed quickly because “there’s a specific time frame in the collective bargain when grievance has to be filed." Brockman said the grievance seeks to get Tensing reinstated.

However, the issue won’t be resolved until after Tensing’s criminal trial is over. "Anybody can make a charge or accusation but until they're convicted -- we don't really know how that's going to go yet so he still has his right to his employment,” Brockman said.

9. Tensing's defense is self-defense

Tensing's attorney maintains that his client "feared for his life" when he shot DuBose. Initial reports given by Tensing said he was dragged by DuBose's car; Deters said the body camera footage disputed those reports.

10. Tensing's attorney tried to get the trial moved out of Hamilton County

Largely blaming Prosecutor Joe Deters' press conference held just after Tensing was indicted for murder, attorney Stew Mathews filed for the trial to be moved out of Hamilton County. "What you hear initially is what sticks in your mind and you close your mind to anything else," he said.

Questionnaires distributed to 1,000 people will hopefully yield a fair jury, the prosecution said. The trail is still planned for Hamilton County. However, if the prosecution or defense cannot agree on a 12-member jury, there's still a chance the trial could move to another county.

11. DuBose's medical records were requested by the defense

Stew Mathews requested DuBose's hospital records before the trial. DuBose's family and friends also discussed his health, describing him as "frail" and "fragile."

Hadassah Homas, a friend of DuBose's, told WCPO days after the shooting that DuBose had an illness that made him very weak.

"We were so concerned about him being sick," Homas said. "Sam has been sick for a while. He did not have no fight in him. Nothing. He was just so weak. To take his life – his life was – I mean he was very fragile."

12. Judge Megan Shanahan is hearing the case

Judge Shanahan recently sentenced Glen Bates to death for beating and "torturing" his 2-year-old daughter to death.

Shanahan already said that court will not go on past 1 p.m. each day due to the high-stress nature of the case.

13. News outlets filed a lawsuit against Prosecutor Deters for the body camera footage

It took officials 10 days to release the body camera footage to the public.

WCPO, WKRC, WXIX, WLWT, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Associated Press filed a joint complaint against Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to have him release the video.

“The law supports our position to not release the video,” Deters responded. "If you do not want to look at the law and just use your common sense, it should be clear why we are not releasing the video only a few days after the incident occurred. We need time to look at everything and do a complete investigation so that the community is satisfied that we did a thorough job. The grand jury has not seen the video yet and we do not want to taint the grand jury process. The video will be released at some point – just not right now.”

The footage was released five days later after Tensing was indicted.

14. UC underwent major public safety changes after the shooting

Weeks after the shooting, UC President Santa Ono named professor Robin Engel as the school’s first Vice President for Safety and Reform. Engel is also the director of the Institute of Crime Science at the university.

Five days later, Cincinnati Police Lt. Col. James Whalen was named UC's Director of Public Safety and S. Gregory Baker as the Director of Police Community Relations.

A few months later, UCPD Chief Jason Goodrich and Maj. Tim Thornton submitted their resignations. Both resignations went into effect immediately. Anthony Carter was named the university police department’s new police chief and Maris Herold was named the new assistant police chief.

UCPD also underwent a "top-to-bottom" review; changes recommended from the review were approved by the Board of Trustees on Oct. 18.

15. UC conducted an independent investigation on the shooting, found it was unjustified

The fatal shooting of Sam DuBose by University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing was "not justified" and violated department policy, according to an independent investigative report.

It also said Tensing was "not factually accurate" in his account of events during the off-campus traffic stop on July 19, rejecting his claim that he was dragged by DuBose's car, as a grand jury did. The shooting "never should have occurred" and was "entirely preventable," the 65-page report says.

The full report is available here.

16. In 2010, a criminal defense attorney said Tensing should not become a police officer

Tensing was involved in a fight after a party in August 2010. It was just a few weeks after completing his training from the police academy, where he was recognized as an “outstanding student” during the graduation ceremony.

Tensing was “beaten up,” according to Jay Clark, an attorney who represented one of the men involved. He suffered serious injuries and called 911.

The case proceeded to the legal system. Between the fight and the trial in June of 2011, Tensing conducted his own investigation, using Facebook to find the people involved and supposedly pretending to be someone he wasn’t, according to two attorneys who worked on the case.

Criminal defense attorney Lisa Rabanus said she told the head of the explorer program “that he shouldn’t recommend Mr. Tensing for any type of police employment because…he’s a ticking time bomb.”

Still, Tensing landed a job with the Greenhills Police Department. Police records indicate Tensing once fired a Taserat a man, but apparently never used his gun during his time in Greenhills.

In 2014, Tensing got a new job with the University of Cincinnati Police Department. In the two months before he fatally shot DuBose, Tensing used force four times, including drawing his gun twice during traffic stops. Tensing’s use of force was deemed “reasonable,” according to police records.

In a 2015 press conference, Deters said Tensing "should never have been a police officer."

17. DuBose had marijuana, no alcohol in his car

Sam DuBose had four bags and one jar of marijuana in his car when he was shot and killed, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Stew Mathews said the marijuana may have been the reason DuBose started his car's ignition moments before he was shot.

"He wasn't worried about the missing front license plate," Mathews said. "He was worried about the potential felony charges for having drugs in the car."

A gin bottle filled with air freshener, like the one DuBose handed Tensing shortly before the shooting, is often used as a ploy to throw off drug-sniffing dogs, according to Mathews.

"I will try to use this at trial," he said. "All the facts ought to come out. That's pretty important."

18. A list of 1,000 potential jurors will be whittled to 18

Of the 1,000 summons issued, 70 were excused because of business hardship, 54 were excused because of medical issues, 19 students were excused and 239 submitted optional excuses. In addition, 222 jury summons were sent and returned without issues, 91 were undeliverable and 99 requested postponement.

The initial elimination resulted in 234 prospective jurors on the first day of jury selection. The final jury will consist of 12 people with six alternates.

19. Local businesses, law enforcement preparing for protests, possibly riots

City leaders discussed some of their plans during a special Law and Public Safety Committee meeting. Officials said they plan to work with local organizations in hopes the groups will talk to their members about remaining peaceful.

City Manager Harry Black said he believed officials should maintain an optimistic outlook, but also be prepared "for any potential scenario."

"These trials can be emotional in nature, and we're just trying to be proactive and somewhat preemptive at the same time," Black said.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office also came up with a safety plan weeks ahead of the trial.

Black Lives Matter and other groups have already held multiple protests since DuBose's death. All protests were peaceful and saw no arrests with the exception of one march in July where six people who broke off from the group were arrested.

Businesses near the courthouse said they expect peaceful protests; some said they've considered a change in hours and closing earlier during the trial.

20. Tensing is the fourth police officer to be indicted for a fatal shooting in Cincinnati

Before Tensing, three police officers were indicted after shooting and killing unarmed black men.

Cincinnati officer Stephen Roach shot and killed 19-year-old Timothy Thomas during a foot chase through a dark alley in Over-the-Rhine on April 7, 2001. The shooting led to three nights of rioting in the city.

Roger Owensby Jr., 29, died after a struggle with Cincinnati police officers Robert "Blaine" Jorg and Patrick Caton at a Roselawn gas station just after 8 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2000.

Other Cincinnati officers have been involved in on-duty killings since then, but only Roach, Jorg and Caton were indicted and went to trial.

None of the men were convicted. Read more about the cases here.