In two states, up­hill cop mur­der re­tri­als

Ju­rors haven’t been will­ing to con­vict po­lice.

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Dan Sewell

cincin­nati» Fac­ing up­hill bat­tles to find ju­rors will­ing to con­vict po­lice of­fi­cers, pros­e­cu­tors in two states say they will try again to win guilty ver­dicts against white of­fi­cers in the fa­tal shoot­ings of black men.

A judge in the case against for­mer Univer­sity of Cincin­nati po­lice Of­fi­cer Ray Tens­ing set a Mon­day hear­ing on a timetable for a re­trial. Ju­rors couldn’t reach a ver­dict on mur­der and vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter charges against him in the death of Sam DuBose, and a mis­trial was de­clared Nov. 12.

A South Carolina jury dead­locked last Mon­day on the same charges against Michael Slager, a for­mer North Charleston of­fi­cer. The pros­e­cu­tor also pledged to try Slager again for the death of Walter Scott.

Le­gal ex­perts say the mis­tri­als un­der­score the dif­fi­cul­ties pros­e­cu­tors face in po­lice cases, with many ju­rors un­will­ing to sec­ond-guess of­fi­cers’ re­ac­tions when they claim to be in danger.

“Juries tend to give po­lice of­fi­cers the ben­e­fit of the doubt,” said Mike Allen, a Cincin­nati at­tor­ney and for­mer pros­e­cu­tor. “You can ar­gue till the cows come home whether that’s right or not.”

In both tri­als, the for­mer of­fi­cers tes­ti­fied in their own de­fenses and said they feared for their lives. Tens­ing, 27, said he be­lieved he could be killed by DuBose’s car, as the 43-year-old man tried to drive away af­ter he was stopped by Tens­ing in July 2015 for a miss­ing front li­cense plate. Slager, 35, said the 50-year-old Scott wres­tled his stun gun away and pointed it at him af­ter he stopped Scott for a bro­ken tail light in April 2015.

Pros­e­cu­tors said ev­i­dence in­clud­ing Tens­ing’s body­cam video con­tra­dicted his story. A by­stander’s cell­phone video showed Slager shoot­ing Scott five times in the back, video that was widely seen and fur­ther in­flamed na­tional de­bate about how po­lice treat blacks.

“Even in the most egre­gious cases, it takes an aw­ful lot to get a jury to con­vict a po­lice of­fi­cer,” said Philip Stinson, a Bowl­ing Green (Ohio) State Univer­sity crim­i­nol­o­gist who tracks po­lice shoot­ing cases around the coun­try.

The only po­lice of­fi­cer Stinson knows of who’s been con­victed of mur­der by a jury for an on-duty shoot­ing since he be­gan com­pil­ing sta­tis­tics in 2005 is James Ashby. The for­mer Rocky Ford of­fi­cer was sen­tenced to 16 years in prison af­ter a jury in June con­victed him of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der for fa­tally shoot­ing Jack Jac­quez in the back in 2014 af­ter fol­low­ing him into the home of the slain man’s mother.

Michael Slager, right, leaves the Charleston County Court­house un­der the pro­tec­tion of the sher­iff ’s depart­ment af­ter a mis­trial was de­clared for his trial last week in South Carolina. Mic Smith, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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