The retrial of former UC police officer Ray Tensing is now in the jury's hands. He's charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter for the 2015 shooting death of Sam DuBose during an off-campus traffic stop.
Closing arguments lasted nearly three hours Monday. The prosecution says Tensing's actions were unreasonable and therefore murder. The defense counters the shooting was justified because Tensing feared for his life.
Assistant prosecutor Stacey DeGraffenreid used a puzzle metaphor to take jurors through the events and legal definitions involved in the case. Tensing's actions, she argued, were not reasonable.
"I submit the evidence has shown that on July 19, 2015, the defendant was not in fear of imminent physical harm."
DeGraffenreid played the body camera video of the shooting and then walked the jury through slides pulled from the video.
"There's nothing to show you that he was in any fear of imminent danger or harm 1.059 seconds prior to when he shot his gun and fired into Mr. Dubose's head."
She told the jury that Tensing used all the necessary buzzwords when giving his statement to investigators. She argued his statement is inconsistent with the events in the video.
Defense attorney Stew Mathews also broke down the events in the body camera video, though he did not replay it for the jury. He argued Sam DuBose's actions during the traffic stop raised red flags for Ray Tensing. He also suggested DuBose planned to flee from the very beginning.
"Sam DuBose, for whatever reason said 'I'm not sticking around here,'" Mathews theorized. "I would suggest to you that Sam DuBose made up his mind that he wasn't going to stick around as soon as Ray Tensing turned on his police cruiser's lights. That's why Sam DuBose took him back into Rice Street and didn't stop on Thill."
DuBose, Mathews added, likely knew he would be arrested if the traffic stop continued because of the marijuana in the car, his suspended license, and criminal record.
The murder charge does not apply in this case, Mathews says, because Tensing "knowingly shot Sam DuBose attempting to stop the threat that he perceived Sam DuBose – not only perceived but that Sam DuBose was actually imposing on Ray Tensing – that is what he knowingly did, trying to stop the threat not to kill Sam DuBose."
Similarly he argued the voluntary manslaughter charge doesn't fit this case because there was no evidence Tensing was in a sudden fit of rage or passion.
As to whether Tensing was dragged, as he said, or not as the prosecution argues, Mathews said "dragging has to start somewhere."
"Dragging is taking someone from one position and roughly transporting them to another position," said Mathews, who added he thinks DuBose's car moved approximately ten feet before Tensing fired.
Mathews told the jury to put themselves in Tensing's shoes and decide if the shooting was justified.
"Just because Ray Tensing made a tactical error doesn't mean that he had to suffer the consequences of Sam DuBose's actions and allow himself to be run over or dragged or whatever was going to happen."
Mathews concluded by reminding the jury about testimony from Cincinnati Police Officer Shannon Heine who led the investigation. On the second day of testimony, Heine said, over objections from the prosecution, "Based on my time and training with internal investigations, I thought I was looking at an officer-involved shooting where his actions may be determined to be justified based on the events surrounding the actual shooting and taking into consideration the information about the prior conduct of Mr. DuBose and Officer Tensing."
Next came assistant prosecutor Seth Tieger on rebuttal. He called Tensing controlling and a liar. He called the defense's descriptions of DuBose "character assassination."
While he said the charge of voluntary manslaughter was "slam dunk, guilty," Tieger said there was no reason for jurors to even get to that lesser charge.
He called the defense's justification argument "legal gymnastics and semantics."
"If you point a gun that close to somebody's head and pull the trigger, your purpose is to end their life regardless of how that's sanitized."
Teiger also pointed out Tensing never complained of, or showed evidence of, being injured in his shoulder or armpit, which is how the defense says Tensing was trapped inside the car.
He told the jury a reasonable officer would not have done what Tensing did in this case.
Tieger questioned Tensing's lack of apparent remorse after the shooting saying Tensing showed no regard or concern for DuBose as he sat in the crashed vehicle.
"Sam DuBose was trapped in that car during that stop, and he was an easy target when his car became his coffin."
Following closing arguments, the judge read the jury instructions and sent the jury to begin deliberating.