CINCINNATI (CN) – A lengthy jury selection process – complicated in large part by concerns over prospective jurors’ anonymity – will continue next week in the retrial of former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing on murder charges.
Tensing, who is white, shot and killed unarmed black man Samuel DuBose, 43, during a traffic stop on July 19, 2015, but the jury in his first trial was unable to reach a verdict on murder and voluntary manslaughter charges.
The retrial has been mired in controversy, with three different judges having recused themselves before the appointment of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Leslie Ghiz.
Ghiz initially sought to uphold a floor-wide ban on electronics in the courthouse, but eased restrictions after a heated hearing on Thursday with attorneys regarding media access to the case.
No electronics will be allowed inside the courtroom, whose audience will include just five members of the media chosen by a daily lottery.
Reporters also sought access to the questionnaires completed by prospective jurors, but Ghiz has yet to decide whether she will release the forms.
The judge was served with a lawsuit filed by local media outlets during voir dire proceedings on Friday. The suit, filed in Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals, seeks the release of the questionnaires as well as the complete removal of all restrictions placed on the media.
Judge Ghiz, a former city councilwoman, blasted reporters in a lengthy tirade when she opened voir dire proceedings on Friday morning, saying she is “at the end of her rope with the media.”
“This is a court of law; I think the media has forgotten that,” she told the courtroom. “I think the media thinks that it is their duty to walk in and voir dire this, or to question this jury panel as if they were conducting voir dire, and it’s offensive.”
Ghiz previously threatened to ban all media from the courtroom if an image of a prospective juror or selected juror is published, and reminded reporters on Friday that “one step out of line, that’s the end of it.”
She scolded reporters because “the only reason [they’re here] is to sell papers and have people click on their websites,” and joked that “I can see the headlines now, they’re beautiful.”
Tensing was originally charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter, but it’s possible the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office could seek to convict him on lesser charges the second time around.
A change of venue is also a possibility, with Tensing’s attorney Stew Mathews having filed the motion before the voir dire process began earlier this week.
Speaking to reporters this week, Mathews said, “There has been a resurrection of the shuttered Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus – and because of the effect that’s had on these proceedings, there’s no way my client can get a fair trial.”
Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Seth Tieger agreed with Mathews on Friday and also sought to move the trial away from Hamilton County.
Tieger took over the case after Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters declined to retry Tensing himself, citing the importance of other cases and responsibilities.
Prospective jurors were released from their duty shortly after 2 p.m. local time Friday, and jury selection will continue on Monday.