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Judge may decide whether to move Ray Tensing murder trial Monday

Prosecutor wants change in venue
Posted at 10:48 PM, Nov 27, 2016

CINCINNATI -- Will the Ray Tensing trial stay in Hamilton County? Will Judge Megan Shanahan recuse herself?

These questions may be answered as early as Monday in the retrial of former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, who shot and killed an unarmed black motorist in July 2015.

Shanahan declared a mistrial on Nov. 12 after the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on either voluntary manslaughter or murder after days of deliberation.

Judge Shanahan will meet with the defense and prosecution Monday for a pretrial hearing in the case that is making Hamilton County history. The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. and will be streaming on WCPO.com.

Local defense attorney Carl Lewis said it’s unlikely Shanahan will recuse herself or opt to change venues.

"I've been practicing law since 1989,” Lewis said. “I've done hundreds and hundreds of jury trials -- I have never had a prosecutor request a change in venue.

“I have never had a change in venue request granted.” 

Stew Mathews, Tensing’s attorney, said they may switch positions on the matter.

"We originally asked for a change in venue,” Mathews said. “At this time I think perhaps we will change our position...I think a jury here in Hamilton County can be seated, and I think logistically it makes sense for me to keep it here."

Mathews had requested a change in venue before the first trial, but his request was denied.

When he announced he would retry Tensing on Tuesday, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters requested the venue be changed the second time around -- though he said he could not remember a case that had ever been moved out of the county before.

MUST READ: Ray Tensing will be tried again for murder, prosecutor wants change of venue

Deters said he wanted to change location because he thinks it will be difficult to find an impartial jury in Hamilton County. But Shanahan would have to approve his motion for the venues to change.

He said Columbus or Cleveland “would be fine with me.”

Lewis said the decision from Shanahan will probably not be an easy one.

“I think a decision that serious, probably she's going to request a little more information from each side as to why the venue should or should not be changed, but again knowing Judge Shanahan -- she's very firm,” Lewis said. “She's very fair.

“She could easily say, ‘No. It's not being changed,’ or ‘Yes.’”

Shanahan may recuse herself from the case due to maternity leave.

Lewis said this could complicate the timeline of the trial.

“If she's on maternity leave for an extended period of time that pushes the trial date to perhaps the spring,” Lewis said. “But if she recuses herself and there is a change in venue, do you wait to get a judge in that other county, or do you have a local judge to have the case?”

Deters expects the retrial to be in April 2017.