Jury selection in officer's murder trial begins amid prayers
CINCINNATI — Social activists held hands in a prayer circle outside a courthouse while potential jurors were inside amid tight security Tuesday for the racially charged murder trial of a white former university police officer charged with killing an unarmed black man during a traffic stop.
Members of an unusually large jury pool had orientation sessions in the Hamilton County courthouse before filling out 25-page questionnaires that will be studied by the defense and prosecutors before they start questioning candidates in court Oct. 31. Dozens were excused, reducing the pool to some 210 people. The judge excused one potential juror after he was inadvertently shown on media livestream video of the proceedings.
The questions are aimed at learning potential jurors' thoughts and opinions about the case and related issues such as their perceptions of police and the justice system.
Ray Tensing is charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter in the July 19, 2015, shooting of 43-year-old Sam DuBose after pulling him over for a missing front license plate near the University of Cincinnati. His attorney has said Tensing, 26, feared for his life.
There was increased security inside the courthouse, with uniformed deputies restricting access to the courtroom area, besides the usual screening upon entry to the building. Sheriff's spokesman Mike Robison said three people were escorted out of the court proceedings for being disruptive, but there were no arrests or other security problems.
Outside, faith leaders and social activists prayed for justice and healing.
“We are believers for the full justice of God to happen,” said the Rev. Troy Jackson, director of the Amos Project, a social justice organization. “We're praying that will be the case.”
They also offered prayers for the families of DuBose and Tensing, who was in the courtroom Tuesday. He was released on $1 million bond after his indictment last year.
Black Lives Matter activists had a rally and march Saturday and are planning a demonstration outside the courthouse Oct. 31.
The Cincinnati shooting is among cases across the nation in the last three years that have focused attention on how police respond to black people.
Tensing was fired last year by the University of Cincinnati, which has restructured its public safety department and made reforms since the shooting. It also agreed to a $5.3 million settlement with DuBose's family that includes free undergraduate tuition for his 13 children.