Jury instructions in Ray Tensing’s murder trial may have confused jurors

CINCINNATI, Ohio (WLWT) — Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters is calling the jury instructions in the Ray Tensing murder trial “really confusing.”

The case ended in a mistrial on Saturday. Some wonder if the instructions are to blame.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Megan Shanahan read them aloud, on the record, during Tensing’s trial, but she then ordered the document containing the jury instructions sealed until the jury was excused.

Now that jurors have been dismissed, WLWT News 5 has obtained a copy of the instructions.

View the instruction here

Dykes was in court when Judge Shanahan spent 30 minutes reading the instructions for the 12 men and women who would be deciding the fate of Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed Sam DuBose during a traffic stop last year.

Jurors had to make sense of instructions such as this one: “You may not make one inference from another inference but you may draw more than one inference from the same facts or circumstances.”

On page seven of the 18 page document a line reads: “The defendant may be found guilty or not guilty of any one or all the offenses charged.” Five pages later the instructions say: “If you unanimously find the defendant guilty of murder in count 1, you are not to consider count 2.” Those two lines seem contradictory.

Then there’s a line questioning whether Sam DuBose was “actively resisting arrest” when Tensing fired the fatal shot.

Friday, jurors asked Shanahan to define “arrest,” but she was not able to do so based on legal rules.

Al Gerhardstein, an attorney for the DuBose family, said at the time that the question about the definition of arrest pointed to confusion among jurors.

“I think they’re still weighing all the factors, and in my view they’re not looking at the most important one, if that’s what’s hanging them up,” Gerhardstein said.

Deters has said the definition of arrest meant nothing to the case, and he said the question meant some jurors had lost their way.

After the judge declared a mistrial, Deters acknowledged the jury instructions may have been an issue.

“You know, you’re asking 12 lay people to try to make sense of very complicated legal instructions and things like that,” Deters said.

Deters is trying to speak with jurors to see why they ended up deadlocked. He will use that information to decide whether to try Tensing again. His decision is expected right after Thanksgiving weekend.

WDTN.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s