Ray Tensing will take the stand in his murder trial, attorney tells WCPO

Nearly 100 people could be called to testify
Posted at 8:02 PM, Oct 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 09:50:55-04

CINCINNATI –  Ray Tensing's attorney is going to roll the dice.

The former University of Cincinnati police officer will testify in his own defense at his upcoming murder trial, attorney Stew Mathews told WCPO Thursday.

Mathews said he will put his client on the witness stand to tell what happened when he shot Sam DuBose after a traffic stop in Mount Auburn in 2015. Tensing is claiming self-defense. Prosecutors call it murder.

"It was the purposeful killing of another human being. That's what happened here," Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said.

"When the evidence comes out at trial, it will be closer to what I say," Mathews countered.

PHOTOS: First day inside the courtroom

Attorney Merlyn Shiverdecker, who has defended many police officers, says putting Tensing on the stand is "obviously risky."

"When the defendant testifies, he's subject to cross-examination and those are experienced prosecutors that will be cross-examining him," Shiverdecker said.

But defense attorney Marty Pinales says it's necessary in this case. Jurors will see the video of the shooting from Tensing's body camera and they'll want to hear his explanation.

 "Unfortunately, you can't open a person's head and look inside and say, 'Ah, I see fear,' " Pinales said. "Only Tensing can say what he felt -- what he feared -- which showed what he did.' "

WARNING: Shooting video contains disturbing images, sounds.

Each side will present its version.

"The evidence is that (DuBose) was rapidly driving away when this happened and Ray was caught up in the car," Mathews said.

 "You don't get shot in the head for rolling away from a traffic stop for no front license plate," countered Deters.

There are nearly 100 possible witnesses listed in the case. That includes almost 50 Cincinnati and UC police officers, as well as crime scene, lab and video experts.

Some DuBose family members could be called, too.

PHOTOS: Defense, prosecution spar over DuBose's criminal, medical history

Shiverdecker says normal witness lists are two or three times longer that what attorneys actually use.

"If you put people down on the witness list and you don't call them, the other side cannot comment on who you did not call," he said.

The goal is to give jurors a logical timeline of the case.

"They'll try to put them in groups or categories so that there's flow to the evidence as they're presenting it instead of it being piecemeal or choppy," Shiverdecker said.

But Pinales sounded a warning about having too many witnesses.

"There is a possibility of overdoing it," he said.

Pinales urges lawyers to keep a close eye on the jury box.

"Watching their moves, watching their ability to comprehend all of this, and when you get enough legally for the elements of the offense, you sit down," Pinales said.

Tensing, charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter,  will be the star witness no matter who or how many others are called.

"Two people are in a position to know and only one of them is around to tell the story," Shiverdecker said.

The case will get underway in earnest Monday when attorneys start questioning potential jurors in Judge Megan Shanahan's courtroom.

Testimony is not expected to begin before Nov. 7.

SEE WCPO's complete coverage of the Tensing Trial.