Prosecutor won’t try ex-officer Tensing third time, family angered

Hamilton County’s prosecutor said he believed in his case against a white former police officer accused in the shooting death of a black motorist, but he also believed he had “zero chance” of winning a third trial.

Prosecutor Joe Deters — in an emotionally charged press conference Tuesday afternoon — announced that he will not pursue a new trial against Ray Tensing. Hung juries had not been able to reach verdicts in two previous trials of the former University of Cincinnati police officer who killed Sam Dubose during a traffic stop two years ago.

The then 27-year-old Tensing was fired in July of 2015 after a grand jury indicted him for murder and voluntary manslaughter for killing Dubose, 43, after pulling him over for missing a front license plate on his car. Tensing shot once, hitting DuBose in the head, a body camera worn by the ex-cop revealed.

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Deters was direct during his commentary Tuesday, declaring a third trial would not result in a conviction.

He told the media that he met with “multiple jurors, black and white,” and explained that they felt that there would be zero chance that there could be a conviction on murder and voluntary manslaughter charges.

“If you talk to the Dubose family, they are going to be upset,” he said. “We did everything we could to secure a conviction because we believed in that case. We hired the best experts in the country to testify, and it just didn’t work… For whatever reason there were jurors who felt (Tensing) feared for his life.”

Cases involving a police officer as a defendant are difficult, Deters said, because people tend to want to give the benefit of the doubt to the officer.

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“But we believed in our case or we wouldn’t have brought it,” he said.

Deters called it the most difficult decision of his career. He noted that he has cleared 51 officers of alleged crimes in his career, and this is the first officer that he has brought charges against.

The veteran prosecutor explained that, although the justice system in America is not perfect, it’s still the best in the world.

“It is the best system in the world, but it is imperfect,” he said. “There is outrage about verdicts all the time like the O.J. Simpson case, this case, and back in 1800s we had a jury verdict that caused a courthouse to be burned down. This is not a new thing, but this is the system we have. It’s better than just getting thrown in the slammer like North Korea. We have a jury of our peers that decide right or wrong, and that’s what we have here (in the Tensing case).”

Sgt. Dan Hils, head of the Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police Queen City Lodge No. 69, which represents a large part of Cincinnati’s 1,000-plus sworn officers, thought it was a wise move not to pursue a third trial with the same charges against Tensing.

“I think there was no chance of getting conviction with those charges,” Hils said.

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He also believes that as the two-year high profile Tensing case is now over, that it will be “business as usual” for officers serving the city.

Dubose’s sister, Trina Allen, spoke about the decision not to go to a third trial. She said she will be “on Tensing’s back for the rest of his life,” letting everybody know that he is a murderer.

Citing several police involved shooting cases including Tamir Rice, John Crawford and Philando Castile, Allen said it is geting harder for the black community to trust police.

“I think that it is outrageous,” she said. “I am going to make sure that whatever community he (Tensing) lives in, they know that he is a racist who pulled a gun and shot a man in the head because he didn’t comply with him.”

Deters said the next move in the legal process involves turning all of the evidence in the case to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman.

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Glassman’s office will review evidence from the state court trials to assess whether there are possible federal civil rights offenses that might warrant prosecution.

Deters said Glassman’s office contacted him after Tensing’s second hung jury. He says his prosecutors have turned over case information to the federal authorities.

“They called us and we sent everything to them. They will look at how many African-Americans he (Tensing) was pulling over. They will look at the (Confederate Flag) T-shirt he was wearing at the time of the shooting.”

Several thousand people signed a petition Hamilton resident Lacy Robinson, 25, created on and delivered to Deters expressing support for Tensing and asking that a third trial not be conducted.

“I’ve watched these trials from day one … and I think it was a justified decision,” Robinson said. “That is why I started the petition. He made the decision to defend our city, and it is time for us to defend him.”

She said the first day the petition was available to sign there were no signatures, but at the end of the second day more than 2,000 joined. It has more that 5,600 people on it now.

“We think that justice has been served,” Robinson said. “There is nothing against the Dubose family and we pray for them everyday. But we have received death threats for expressing our opinion.”

Robinson and many of the people on the petition are hoping to have a peace gathering in Cincinnati on Monday.