CINCINNATI – When all was said and done, Prosecutor Joe Deters ended his one-on-one interview with WCPO Anchor Tanya O’Rourke with a personal message - a challenge - for Ray Tensing.
“What I would love Ray Tensing to do,” Deters said, “would be for him to apologize to the DuBose family because he never has – ever – and it makes me sick to my stomach.”
WATCH Deters' comment about Tensing in the player above.
Deters was referring to the two trials when Tensing took the stand and never expressed regret for shooting DuBose to death at a traffic stop on July 19, 2015. A few hours earlier Tuesday afternoon, Deters announced he would not try Tensing a third time -- after two hung juries and mistrials -- because Deters no longer believed he could win a conviction. That decision – and Tensing – seemed to be haunting Deters.
Sitting in his office library, Deters talked for nearly 20 minutes with O’Rourke about Tensing, jury bias in the first two trials, problems with the justice system and Deters’ hopes that a Justice Department investigation can lead to federal charges against the former University of Cincinnati officer.
Deters also spoke about his disappointment at not winning a conviction on murder or voluntary manslaughter charges.
“I think Tensing murdered Sam DuBose, so it’s not a pleasant outcome,” Deters summed up at one point.
Here are more of Deters’ comments:
On whether Tensing could be hired as a police officer again: “That would be a serious mistake. That would be a serious mistake. If I’m a chief and I got a guy applying for a job who was tried twice for murder and then the feds are now actively investigating civil rights violations, I don’t think I’d hire him. There are too many candidates out there.”
On racial bias among jurors: “There was one African-American lady who told our guys that we’re never going to get a verdict either way with these facts, and it was eye-opening to me. It really bothers me that the country is like this – that’s it’s so divided. It was divided in the O.J. Simpson case. It was divided in this case. If I had an all African-American jury, I would have been successful. If I had an all-white jury, I probably would have lost. But we had a mix – a diverse jury in both cases, so it was split.”
On the jurors’ vote: “In the first trial we did have a bunch of white jurors who voted for manslaughter – not for murder. We only had four for murder, but 10 for manslaughter. But we had two jurors that just weren’t going to do it. Period. Weren’t going to convict him.”
On the difference in the vote in the two trials: "We had a different evidentiary ruling by the two different judges, I think. Both judges were good. They were very well-intentioned. They had to do what they thought was right."
On the defense putting DuBose's character on trial: "There's no question he was on trial. That was the strategy from the start. Look, Sam was a low-level drug dealer, probably selling to get his own marijuana. He was not going to be Cincinnatian Of The Year, OK? But you don't get shot for that."
On the justice system - Is it broken?: "It's not perfect by a long shot ... It's not just Hamilton County, it's all over the country. I mean, who would have thought O.J. Simpson would go free? Really? That's the strongest case of murder I've ever seen in my life."
On police officers shooting people in the back and "walking away:" "That's unbelievable. I think what's happened is people see the violence in some of the poor neighborhoods in the country - the senseless killings - and they recognize the police, to go into these areas and try to protect, they tend to give police the benefit of the doubt ... I give police officers the benefit of the doubt all the time ... I've cleared 51 officers in the last nine years in shootings. This is the first one we've had we thought was bad."
On what made him consider Tensing bad: "It was the fact that the car had not moved. (DuBose) was pulled over for an excuse to pull somebody over. He had his gun out. The car was not moving. He had his gun pointed at Sam's head. He had his finger on the trigger. And the car maybe moved 3 or 4 inches. And he shot him in the head. I think that's wrong. I don't think that's justified. Just let him leave. Let him drive away. He had backup right behind him. Let him go."
On his personal reaction to how the Tensing case ended: “This has been a heartbreaking case for me, it really has. And meeting with the (DuBose) family was rough. And I feel very badly for them. But I’ve got to do what I swore to do ...
"This is very disappointing for me because I'm used to ... being able to deliver justice to the people who are left behind. And I feel like I didn't do that."
On making the final decision not to retry Tensing: "I’ve gone back and forth on this. My competitive instinct is to retry him. I’d retry him 90 times. But after talking to jurors, to persons in this office that have tried a lot of cases, it was our conclusion that we were not going to be successful."
On how many times he waffled, and how he finally decided: "Probably 50 ... I was with a friend the other night having dinner and he said to me, 'If Sam DuBose had shot Ray Tensing, how many times would you retry it?' Until I thought I could not get a conviction. And that's where I reached it with this case."
On hopes for federal charges: "Hopefully, because they have a much broader ability to bring in racial animus in this type of case, that they’ll do something. I mean, if I was a U.S. attorney, I would do something. Their decisions are made in Washington, though, so they’ve got to do it through there.”
SEE WCPO's complete coverage at WCPO.com/TensingTrial