CINCINNATI -- It wasn't a missing license plate after all. It was something much more nefarious, Ray Tensing's attorney says.
Stew Mathews dropped a bombshell in court Monday, saying the old, familiar story that the former University of Cincinnati police officer stopped Sam DuBose for not having a front license isn't completely accurate.
"I will tell you right now that the evidence will show that’s not the reason — the primary reason — that Ray Tensing stopped Sam DuBose, but it was a more serious situation than that," Mathews said while speaking to prospective jurors Monday.
Mathews made the statement after citing one of the prospective juror's questionnaires. He said a juror had expressed the belief that police selectively target the poor and minorities for minor traffic offenses.
Mathews wouldn’t give any further details.
Prosecutors have always said the shooting was murder — a purposeful killing — and the defense isn’t challenging that. In fact, assistant prosecutor Rick Gibson dropped his own bombshell at jury selection, saying DuBose had told Cincinnati Police homicide detectives that he purposely killed DuBose.
"This isn’t a whodunit, and it’s not an accident," said Gibson. "It’s a case where the defendant himself admitted that he purposely caused the death of Sam DuBose."
Tensing's attorney agreed.
"It is not a whodunit. We know who caused the death of Sam Dubose and that’s Ray Tensing. We’re not denying that," Mathews said.
Instead, Mathews said Tensing feared for his life and fired in self-defense when DuBose started to drive off from the stop.
"We are saying that Ray Tensing was justified in causing the death of Sam DuBose, so in a sense we do have to convince you of that," Mathews told the prospective jurors.
Gibson said that's OK with prosecutors.
"If the defendant wants to assert an affirmative defense, that burden of proof is not on us. It’s on him," Gibson said. "If the defendant wants to prove self-defense, that’s a burden he bears."
Judge Megan Shanahan wants to make sure that it’s the facts in the case — not skin color or anything else — that leads to a verdict.
"In arriving at your verdict, can each of you lay aside such matters as race, religion or sympathy? None of these must not have any effect on your deliberations in this case.," Shanahan said.