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Coroner: DuBose Died Instantly

Cara Owsley
Dr. Karen Looman, chief deputy coroner and forensic pathologist at the Hamilton County Coroner's office, shows drawings from Sam Dubose's autopsy, during her testimony.

The prosecution has rested in the retrial of Ray Tensing for the shooting death of Sam DuBose. The state's final witness, Dr. Karen Looman,  the county's chief deputy coroner, testified DuBose was killed instantly when the bullet cut through his brain stem.

"It would have caused an instantaneous death," Looman said. "He would've stopped breathing immediately. His heart would've stopped beating immediately. If he was standing up, his body would fall with gravity because he's no longer capable of holding his body up."

Looman confirmed to assistant prosecutor Seth Tieger that DuBose would have ceased all intentional action immediately after being shot, including purposefully pressing down on the car's accelerator.

"If his foot was hovering over the gas pedal of the car," Looman said, "with gravity, it would collapse onto whatever it's above. So, if it's above a pedal, it'll collapse on the pedal."

"Could Mr. DuBose any longer control his foot once that bullet went through the brain stem," Tieger asked.

"No," confirmed Looman.

The chief deputy coroner stated the bullet had a downward trajectory, entering DuBose's head above his left ear and exiting behind his right.

Defense attorney Stew Mathews used his time questioning the prosecution's final witnesses to drive home the idea that Sam DuBose had enough marijuana in his possession to amount to a fifth degree felony. Looman testified $2,620 was found on DuBose's body.

He also tried to raise questions in the jurors' minds about DuBose's health. Over objections from the prosecution, he elicited from Looman that DuBose had lost weight and was not a healthy individual.

Credit Cara Owsley / Pool
Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Leslie Ghiz presides over the fifth day of Raymond Tensing's retrial in her courtroom Wednesday, June 14, 2017.

While the jury did view graphic autopsy images, the judge held back some of the most gruesome images over the prosecution's objections. Judge Leslie Ghiz shook her head in apparent disgust, but courtroom observers report none of the jurors seemed to react when viewing the images.

Prior to Looman's testimony, firearms expert Kevin Lattyak, also with the county crime lab, went into detail about how Tensing's service weapon works, how he determined it was the weapon used during the shooting, and how close it was to Sam DuBose's head at the time of the shooting.

Lattyak says he estimates the gun was at least a foot but no more than two feet away from DuBose's head, based on gunshot residue found on DuBose's hat.

Lattyak testified Tensing's weapon was in proper working order as well. He stated UC police officers carry a weapon that is slightly more powerful than what Cincinnati police officers carry.

Cincinnati police officer Martin Odom was called to talk about the photographs he took of Tensing at the hospital after the shooting. He testified Tensing's appeared to him as "scared or afraid."

The defense will call its first witnesses Thursday morning. That could include a video expert who does forensic animations. The judge, however, has already ruled out those animations saying they make an imperfect scenario seem too perfect. It is possible Ray Tensing could take the stand on Friday. Judge Leslie Ghiz told jurors to be prepared stay longer that day.

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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.