Jury selection is set to begin on Tuesday in the retrial of a former University of Cincinnati police officer charged with murdering an unarmed black motorist, after the first trial ended in a mistrial.
Body-camera video of the July 2015 incident showed then-officer Ray Tensing, 27, shooting Samuel DuBose, 43, in the head during a traffic stop after pulling over DuBose for a missing front license plate on his vehicle.
DuBose’s death fueled demonstrations against the use of lethal force by white officers against unarmed blacks and other minorities, an issue that renewed debate over racial bias among U.S. police.
Prospective jurors reported to the Hamilton County Courthouse in Cincinnati on Thursday to complete jury questionnaires, prior to the beginning of the selection process on Tuesday. A jury will be selected before opening statements begin.
A mistrial was declared last November in the first trial after jurors could not agree and prosecutors said they would retry Tensing.
Tensing, who was fired by the university police after he was charged, faces murder and voluntary manslaughter charges in the retrial. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $1 million bond.
A gag order has been placed on all parties, but last November Tensing’s attorney, Stew Mathews, said the shooting was justified as his client feared for his life and only fired to prevent being run over. Mathews said the facts in the case had not changed and the defense would remain the same.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said last fall he felt his team had proven murder. Prosecutors argued Tensing was never in danger and exaggerated he was being dragged by DuBose’s vehicle.
During the traffic stop, Tensing asked DuBose to remove his seatbelt and tried to open the car door. DuBose did not comply and closed the door. The vehicle started rolling forward slowly as Tensing pulled his gun and fired once.
On Friday, Common Pleas Court Judge Leslie Ghiz excluded from evidence as too prejudicial the fact that Tensing on the day of the shooting wore a T-shirt bearing the Confederate battle flag under his uniform. The flag carried by the pro-slavery Confederate forces during the U.S. Civil War is viewed by many Americans as a symbol of hate and division.
Ghiz on Thursday denied a defense motion to dismiss the case after they argued Deters had discussed the trial in an interview with local media in violation of the gag order.
(Reporting by Ginny McCabe; Editing by Ben Klayman and Andrew Hay)