Ray Tensing trial: Judge sends families home without verdict; deliberations continue Friday

Sam DuBose's daughters react angrily
Posted at 4:20 PM, Nov 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-11 13:53:42-05

CINCINNATI -- What will happen next? That's what Reagan Brooks wants to know.

Judge Megan Shanahan says she ordered the jury in the Ray Tensing trial to keep deliberating after they told her they couldn't reach a unanimous verdict on either charge in the fatal shooting of Sam DuBose.

"It is desirable that this case be decided,” Shanahan told the jury in her courtroom just before noon Friday. “You were selected in the same manner and from the same source as any future jury would be. It is your duty to decide the case if you can conscientiously do so.

The jury of two blacks and 10 whites had deliberated for more than 16 hours over three days without coming to an agreement on either charge: murder or voluntary manslaughter.

Now there's a very real possibility of a hung jury.

Shanahan said the jury had requested a "read back" of testimony Thursday from the "use of force" experts. That would explain why attorneys went into the courtroom at about 2:20 p.m. It wouldn't explain why the families were summoned.

RELATED: What's holding up the jury?

"They're really not telling us much," Brooks, one of DuBose's daughters, told WCPO's Tanya O'Rourke. "We got a call telling us to come at 4, everything's going to happen at 4."

But it turned out to be a false alarm. Brooks said the family had to sit unattended in an out-of-the-way room until they asked what was happening. She said Shanahan told them to go home and "hopefully they'll have it (a verdict) tomorrow."

Brooks said she was angry and took it as a bad sign that the family won't get the justice it seeks - namely, a guilty verdict.

"I know for a fact it's murder...but I feel the worst they will give him is manslaughter, because if they weren't, they wouldn't need this long to say he's guilty," Brooks said.

Rodney Harris, a local defense attorney, said you just never know what jurors are thinking. The Tensing jury consists of two blacks and 10 whites.

"You never know what they find important, what they're hanging on, what they're going over, so at this point it's just speculating," Harris said.

Local defense attorney Merlyn Shiverdecker said it was too early to speculate about a hung jury.

"If you go three days, four days, then I think you're looking at a posture where they can't reach a verdict," Shiverdecker said. "For a case of that nature, for as serious as it is, it does not shock me that they're out a day and a half."

It was the oddest happening in the three-week trial. Extra police had been put on patrol. About two dozen people demonstrated outside the courthouse. The AMOS Project had scheduled a march for 6 p.m. in anticipation of a verdict.

But no verdict.

Outside the courthouse, another of DuBose's daughters, Teala Williamston, said the evidence proved the murder charge. "We're hoping (for) justice, but knowing how the court system works these days, there's no telling what's going to happen," Williamston said.

Tensing would face a sentence of 15 years to life if convicted of murder. A voluntary manslaughter conviction would mean three to 11 years.

Both daughters said the wait is just causing more pain for their family. The jury has deliberated more than 11 hours all together -- seven or more Thursday and four Wednesday afternoon. Shanahan sequestered the jury for a second night.

Officials took some extra security precautions. They set up a blockade around District 1 police headquarters in the West End. And a sign on the Clerk of Courts office door said it was closed "due to current emergency situations."

The rest of the courthouse is closed Friday for the Veterans Day holiday. Deputies and court personnel will be called in on overtime.

Some schools closed Thursday in anticipation of a verdict, and others sent students home early. 

Tensing, 26, was a University of Cincinnati police officer when he shot and killed DuBose, an unarmed motorist, during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn on July 19, 2015. Tensing was charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter. Assistant prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said the jury would consider the murder charge first.

Tensing is white; DuBose was black.

When Shanahan charged the jury, she explained that murder is a purposeful killing; voluntary manslaughter is committed in rage or passion when a person thinks he or she is in danger of death or serious bodily harm. Murder carries a sentence of 15 years to life; voluntary manslaughter is three to 11 years.

Six days of testimony were completed Tuesday. Closing arguments were made Wednesday morning.

RELATED: Attorneys make new claims in closing arguments

Remembering the riots that followed a police shooting here in 2001 and more recent instances in other cities, officials have opened the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Regional Emergency Operations Center, signaling the city is preparing for whatever follows the verdict. It is typically used for emergencies and natural disasters.

Police stepped up patrols around the courthouse. Garbage cans were tethered. Some businesses removed  outdoor tables and chairs.

There have been small, peaceful demonstrations outside the courthouse each day since jury selection began two weeks ago. They usually involved fewer than a dozen people.

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