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Tensing Trial Jury Visits Shooting Scene, Hears Opening Statements

Family of Sam DuBose sit in the courtroom during the first day of Ray Tensing's trial. He's accused of murdering DuBose.

Opening statements in the trial of Ray Tensing are complete. Prosecutors will begin calling witnesses Wednesday morning.

Jurors visited the scene of the traffic stop and shooting of Sam DuBose Tuesday morning. Afterward they returned for opening statements.

Prosecutor Joe Deters told jurors Tensing stopped Sam DuBose July 19, 2015 for a missing front license plate. "It was a legitimate traffic stop," said Deters. "What Tensing did next was not legitimate. It was murder. It was totally contrary to the training he had received."

Deters continued that what came next were lies from Tensing. He maintains the video will show that Tensing's account of the shooting does not match the video. Deters said Tensing was going for his gun as DuBose reached for the ignition. "You will witness how Tensing pulled his gun, and how he had it moving towards the head of Sam DuBose prior to the car even moving an inch."

The judge, Deters said to jurors, will tell you that "murder, in this case, is purposely killing another. The evidence will show that this case is amazingly simple in terms of proving intent. The reason that it is simple here is because you will hear from Tensing's own mouth that he intentionally shot Mr. DuBose in the head."

Credit Pool
Ray Tensing's father listens to opening arguments in the murder trial of his son on the first day the jury heard the case.

Defense attorney Stew Mathews countered, "I must've been watching a different tape."

Mathews told jurors there's a lot of misinformation about what happened July 19, 2015. He said there's no doubt Tensing fired intentionally. "However, he discharged that weapon, not with the idea that 'I'm going to kill Sam DuBose,' not with the idea that 'I'm going to wound Sam DuBose.' He discharged it with the concept that 'As a police officer, when I am threatened I have been trained to stop the threat.'"

The attorney told jurors they'll hear from former University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono that officers were directed to reduce crime around campus. Former Chief Jason Goodrich, Mathews said, told officers to stop anybody they had a reason to stop.

Mathews also talked about three similar traffic stops Tensing completed in the hours prior to pulling over DuBose. All of which, Mathews said, went smoothly. He went on to describe the DuBose stop in detail, concluding "It was instinctive. What (Tensing) did was draw his weapon. He fired. And you'll be able to see from that video, he's leaning down like this, his hand's up like that, and he fired to stop the threat to try to save his own life or to keep himself from being seriously injured."

Mathews continued, "I will concede that Sam DuBose did not have a gun. He did not ever indicate he had a gun. But I will not concede that he did not have a weapon. He had a 3,000 pound car that he turned into a weapon."

Jury Visit

Prior to opening statements, jurors visited the scene where the stop and shooting took place. They did not get off the bus because a person there allegedly said he intended to take jurors' pictures. A memorial at the site was removed to make the scene look more as it did at the time of the incident. However, some are upset no one was told in advance it was being taken down.

After court, Deters told media, "We didn't want a memorial to influence the jury, to create sympathy for either side."

Sam DuBose's sister Terina Allen tells media her family wants justice and is glad the trial is finally underway.

Judge Megan Shanahan began the day by denying a motion by Tensing's attorney for a change of venue.

"We've been able to successfully seat a jury. The motion for change of venue is overruled," she said.

Outside The Courthouse

Credit Bill Rinehart / WVXU
Members of Black Lives Matter and other organizations plan to demonstrate outside the courthouse during the Ray Tensing trial.

Jon Blickenstaff of Black Lives Matter was among a handful of demonstrators outside the Hamilton County Courthouse Tuesday morning. He says the organization wants to have a constant presence during the Ray Tensing trial.

"So that the public knows that we're standing in solidarity with Sam DuBose and his family, and we're watching what's going on and hoping for a conviction," he says.

Blickenstaff says besides a conviction in the case, Black Lives Matter wants criminal justice reforms. He says he doesn't expect anything to change after Election Day.

"I think what's going to make a bigger difference is people standing up and getting active in whatever social cause they're passionate about because the people that get elected are going to do whatever the status quo or whatever's been going on. Without there being a strong movement of the people out here, like what we're doing, they're just going to leave the status quo the way it is."

Blickenstaff says he and other demonstrators are trying to keep the Tensing trial in the public eye to show people what they see as disparities in policing.

WVXU's Bill Rinehart contributed to this report.