Experts explain what charges against Ray Tensing mean

Former UC officer charged in killing of Sam DuBose
Posted at 7:58 PM, Oct 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-25 19:58:37-04

CINCINNATI - Jurors in the Ray Tensing trial will have to decide if he’s guilty of a crime or acted with justifiable force in shooting Sam DuBose.

And if he committed a crime, was it murder or voluntary manslaughter?

The former University of Cincinnati police officer is charged with both, but what do they mean?

WCPO asked legal experts to explain.

PHOTOS: First day inside the courtroom

What do you see when you look at the video from Tensing’s body camera? That’s a key question in the trial before Judge Megan Shanahan.

WARNING: Shooting video contains disturbing images, sounds.

The defense claims it was a justified use of force because Tensing feared for his life.

Criminal defense attorney Merlyn Shiverdecker says Ohio law defines murder not by prior calculation and design, but as a purposeful act.

"I take a gun that’s loaded and I put it to somebody’s head and pull the trigger, it’s reasonable to infer that I purposefully took that person’s life," Shiverdecker says.

But Shiverdecker says once purpose is legally established, the burden of proof shifts from the prosecution to Tensing’s legal team.

"The defense is going to have to prove that Tensing was reasonable in his belief that he was in fear of his life, and the only way to avoid that was to take the life of the other.  It is a self-defense," Shiverdecker said.

We asked University of Cincinnati Law Professor Christo Lassiter  what’s needed to prove voluntary manslaughter.

"In this particular case, the prosecution would have to argue a sudden passion or rage that motivated the officer to withdraw his weapon and fire at the driver," Lassiter said.

However, Lassiter said the defense could counter the charge isn’t valid  because of how quickly things escalated.

"First and foremost, there simply was not time to form the level of mindset required to contemplate killing another human being.  In other words, the actor acted almost instinctively," he said. 

Motions in the case will be argued at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Questioning of jurors begins next Monday.

SEE WCPO's complete coverage of the Tensing Trial.