CINCINNATI – Tensions were already rising as parties in the Ray Tensing murder trial came face to face in court Tuesday for the start of jury selection.
Calling them "idiotic" and claiming they came "to cause trouble," Prosecutor Joe Deters kicked three audience members out of court just moments before Tensing walked in with his attorney and family members.
The three were ordered from the proceedings for being disruptive, but they were not arrested, Hamilton County Sheriff's spokesman Mike Robison said.
"Those people are just idiotic — I mean, they really are," Deters said. "They don’t understand process. They came here to cause trouble and I said, 'You’re leaving in two seconds,' and they got thrown out, so they’re not coming back."
Black Lives Matter organizer Brian Taylor said members of Black Lives Matter Cincinnati did not carry out or organize the courtroom incident.
"This is to put a little bit of pressure on the city and try to give them an idea that we see you, we saw the video, and anything less than a conviction, with all this evidence, falls into the bucket of anger that is already stirring," Taylor said.
Members of the clergy and civil rights organizations met on the courthouse steps to "encourage the community to be vigilant in holding our court system accountable for fair and impartial treatment of all people."
Tensing stared straight ahead and said nothing as he entered Judge Megan Shanahan’s courtroom. The former University of Cincinnati police officer is charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of Sam DuBose after a traffic stop in Mount Auburn on July 19, 2015. Tensing is white; DuBose was black.
Tensing sat quietly for hours listening to the judge instruct 234 potential jurors — 50 at a time.
"Your participation in this process contributes greatly to the fair and equitable administration of justice in this case," Shanahan told each group.
The key piece of evidence is video of the fatal shooting from Tensing's body camera, and it’s likely that many prospective jurors have seen it. But the judge reminded them Tensing is innocent until proven guilty and ordered them not to discuss the case — especially on social media.
WARNING: Shooting video contains disturbing images, sounds.
"It is hard to resist not discussing this," Shanahan said. "It is an order of the court. There are consequences to that. It is a very expensive process if we would have to declare a mistrial, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Tensing’s attorney wants to use DuBose’s background as evidence at trial. Deters says no way — it’s inadmissible.
"I feel very comfortable that the judge will follow the law and not permit it to come in," Deters said. "It doesn’t have any relevance."
Tensing claims self-defense in that he feared he would be run over by DuBose’s car. DuBose started to drive away after refusing Tensing's order to get out of his car.
Potential jurors went through orientation and filled out a 25-page questionnaire that included questions about their background, attitudes toward police and whether they’ve heard of Black Lives Matter. The questionnaire also asked their political affiliation, whether they have had negative experiences with law enforcement and whether they can be fair and impartial.
"These questions are not designed to pry into your personal affairs," Shanahan said, "but to discover if you have any knowledge of this case or any preconceived opinion that you cannot set aside or if you’ve had any experience in your personal or family life that might cause you to favor either party.
"These questions are necessary to ensure each party a fair and impartial jury."
Attorneys will review the questionnaires and begin actual questioning next week to seat a jury.
Tensing will return to court at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday when Shanahan hears new motions in the case. That's expected to take about a half-hour.
Actual testimony isn't likely to begin before Nov. 7.
WCPO Web Editor Greg Noble wrote this report.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated one of the three people kicked from the courtroom was an organized member of Black Lives Matter. That is not the case.