Mistrial declared again in fatal shooting committed by Cincinnati police officer
Ray Tensing fatally shot Sam DuBose in the head after pulling him over for a missing front license
A second mistrial was declared Friday in the case of a white University of Cincinnati officer who killed an unarmed black motorist during a traffic stop, the latest racially charged police shooting case to show the reluctance of U.S. jurors to convict officers.
Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz declared a mistrial after more than 30 hours of jury deliberations over five days. The jurors had said earlier Friday that they were unable to reach a verdict in the trial of Officer Ray Tensing, but Ghiz had sent them back to try again on the counts of murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Instead, they sent her another note some three hours later, saying: "We are almost evenly split regarding our votes." The note said they didn't foresee reaching a unanimous verdict. Ghiz said as a result, she had to declare a mistrial; she thanked the jurors and dismissed them.
Tensing looked down, his hand on his face, as the judge announced the mistrial over the death of 43-year-old Sam DuBose, who was shot in the head while driving away from the traffic stop on July 19, 2015. Tensing and his family left quickly without comment.
The first trial against the 27-year-old Tensing also ended in a mistrial after the jury deliberated 25 hours over four days in November without reaching a verdict.
The case is among several across the country in recent years that have raised attention to how police deal with blacks.
A jury last week acquitted a Minnesota officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop. And jurors Wednesday acquitted a black police officer of first-degree reckless homicide in the death of a black Milwaukee man who threw away the gun he was carrying during a brief foot chase after a traffic stop.
Prosecutors will have to decide whether to try Tensing for a third time. A spokeswoman for county Prosecutor Joe Deters didn't respond immediately to a request for comment.
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Ghiz had rejected a prosecution request late in the trial to allow jurors to consider a lesser charge of reckless homicide, saying prosecutors could have done that after the first mistrial.
Tensing fired, civil settlement reached
DuBose's family said in a statement that they want a new trial and they urged that protests remain peaceful.
There were more than a dozen demonstrators outside the courthouse with rain coming down Friday afternoon, some chanting: "Black lives matter!"
After the first mistrial last year, about 1,000 protesters marched through downtown on Nov. 12, chanting, "Black lives matter, Sam's life matters."
The crowd briefly blocked a streetcar line and grew in numbers when they were joined by people leaving a rally opposing the election of Donald Trump as president.
As in his first trial, Tensing testified in his own defence and said he feared he could be dragged or run over as DuBose tried to speed away. He was in tears at some points.
"I meant to stop the threat," he told jurors last week. "I didn't shoot to kill him. I didn't shoot to wound him. I shot to stop his actions."
Prosecutors said repeatedly the evidence contradicted Tensing's story. An expert hired by prosecutors said his frame-by-frame analysis of the former officer's body camera video showed the officer was not being dragged by the car.
This jury had nine white and three black people. His first trial had 10 white and two black jury members.
The University of Cincinnati fired Tensing last year after his indictment. It restructured its public safety department and made other policing reforms. The university reached a $5.3 million US settlement with DuBose's family, including free undergraduate tuition for DuBose's 13 children.
To convict Tensing of murder, jurors had to find he purposely killed DuBose. The charge carries a possible sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
The voluntary manslaughter charge means killing during sudden passion or a fit of rage. That carries a possible sentence of three to 11 years.