Judge declares second mistrial in Ohio cop’s murder retrial

CINCINNATI — A mistrial was declared Friday in the murder retrial of a white University of Cincinnati police officer after the jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on charges in the fatal traffic stop shooting of an unarmed black motorist.

The Hamilton County jury had deliberated some 30 hours over five days after getting the case Monday. The jurors had told Judge Leslie Ghiz earlier Friday that they were unable to reach a verdict in the trial of Officer Ray Tensing, but Ghiz sent them back to try again.

The jury on Friday afternoon told the judge they were almost evenly split in their votes and didn’t anticipate coming to a decision. Ghiz then declared a mistrial.

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. It was not immediately clear if prosecutors intend to try the case for a third time.

Tensing shot 43-year-old Sam DuBose in the head after pulling him over for a missing front license plate on July 19, 2015.

As in his first trial, Tensing testified in his own defense and said he feared he could be dragged or run over as DuBose tried to drive 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.

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 settlement with DuBose’s family, including free undergraduate tuition for DuBose’s 13 children.

The case is among several across the country in recent years that have raised attention to how police deal with blacks. It’s also among cases that show the difficulties prosecutors face in gaining convictions against police for on-duty shootings.

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.

Jurors in the Tensing case began deliberations Monday afternoon. They submitted a question Tuesday about the location of a piece of evidence. At the end of the day, they came into the courtroom where the judge praised their work and encouraged them to “hang in there.”

On Friday morning, after jurors said they were deadlocked on both murder and manslaughter charges, Ghiz sent them back to the deliberating room where, she said, “Hopefully, you’re able to resolve your deadlock.”

Ghiz gave the jury of nine whites and three blacks formal instructions to re-examine their views and listen to one another’s opinions.

“It is your duty to decide the case if you can conscientiously do so,” she said.

She declared a mistrial after they came back deadlocked for the second time.

The jury in Tensing’s first trial consisted of 10 whites and two blacks.

Ghiz continues to restrict media coverage. News organizations including The Associated Press have a pending lawsuit against her restrictions on the use of cellphones and other electronic devices.

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.

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