Campus Commentary

UC and the Ray Tensing Settlement: The Breakdown

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On Sunday, July 19, 2015 Ray Tensing, a former UC officer pulled over Samuel Dubose for what they both thought would be a routine traffic stop. Officer Tensing was wearing a body camera during the stop that caught the incidents leading up to the shooting, the shooting itself, and the short incidents after. The UC police department made the decision to withhold this video evidence until after the prosecution presented the case to the grand jury, despite multiple requests being made for the video (LexisNexis).

July 23, 2015 The UCPD released the video to the prosecutions office, before the grand jury decision has been made. However, the body cam footage was not released to the public until much later, because prosecution and defense wanted to leave room for a fair trial and the video would obscure the minds of the public. The Grand Jury decided to indict Tensing on the standing charges of the murder of DuBose

July 29, 2015 The prosecution releases the body cam footage to the public and the trial ball begins to roll. The defense gets the trial going with a motion for prosecution to remove any “extraneous materials appended to the prosecutions merit brief” (LexisNexis). The motion was denied. After watching the video that the defense seemingly tried so hard to keep under wraps, the public and the court saw a routine traffic stop gone bad.

On the body cam we see  Tensing approach DuBose’ car and hear the conversation unfold. After we hear DuBose ask why he was being pulled over and was answered by Tensing with the question of whether the vehicle was his and where his license plate was. The rest of the conversation was routine, “Do you have a license and registration for the vehicle” (body-cam footage)? Officer Tensing noticed a bottle of what was told by DuBose to be a bottle of Gin, which was given to Tensing. Shown on camera, the bottle appeared to be unopened. After multiple times of officer Tensing asking DuBose if he had a license, DuBose appears to get agitated and again asks why he is being pulled over. Tensing gives the same response of ” his front license plate”(body-cam footage). Tensing asks DuBose to remove his seat belt and DuBose does not comply stating “I didn’t even do anything” (body-cam footage). Tensing begins to open the door, which agitates DuBose who then grabs the door and keeps it closed. The public can still see both of DuBose’ hands when in a blink of an eye, while screaming stop, Tensing shoots multiple times and runs from the vehicle. Despite the videos evidence, the jury came up with the response of a hung jury.

A hung jury did not mean the end for this case. Judge Leslie Ghiz called for a new jury to be seated for the case and demanded neither of the attorneys discuss the case with any media until the case is resolved. The retrial was set for May 25, 2017 and the attorneys were busy at work meticulously selecting a new jury and gathering new evidence and building up their current evidence for the new trial. The case set off with a fresh set of eyes on the juror panel and the attorneys presented their evidence to the court room. June rolled around and it was time for the attorney’s final statements before the jurors left to deliberate. The stakes were high, and the public was tense as the jurors took four days to deliberate. Finally, the jurors stepped out and the court was called to order. The heads in the court room shook as the jury explained that they too were deadlocked. Judge Ghiz made the decision to drop the case, and it was over.

In a murder case the jury must be able to convict without a reasonable doubt. The reason behind this is when someone is being convicted of murder the court wants to be 100% positive that the defendant is 100% guilty before convicting. Being as it is the jurors job to decide whether to convict they must be the ones to listen to the evidence of the case and be able to form an unwavering conviction of the defendant. If the jurors have doubts they must vote no and then convince the others to vote no as well, but if they stand alone or if the jury decision is split then the jury is considered as deadlocked, or hung. This decision is given to the judge and the judge then decides between a few options. The judge can throw out the case completely, have the same jurors redeliberate, or the judge can call for a retrial with a new jury. In the Ray tensing case, Judge Ghiz called for a retrial and ended up with a hung jury again and therefore threw out the case. One common misconception of a deadlocked jury is that it means the defendant is acquitted, or innocent, but this is not the case. The defendant could be guilty but the prosecution didn’t do a good enough job of proving it. The prosecution did not prove Tensing’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but the jury also did not acquit Tensing.

The misconception in this case led to Tensing filing a law suit against the University of Cincinnati for wrongful termination after they denied giving him his job back at the university. The decision not to hire Tensing back came easily because he was fired for misconduct during the cases. Neville Pinto, the president of the University of Cincinnati, although being new to the school, realized that letting the discussion of the case continue throughout a civil case would not be good for the school’s status. With this thought, President Pinto and his advisory board decided to settle with Tensing for $244,000 in backpay and $100,000 dollars in legal fees. In other words, UC settled for $344,000 when the evidence pointed to them winning the suit.

“Ohio is an ‘at-will employment‘ state. This means that, unless explicitly stated, both employer and employee may terminate the employment for any reason (or for no reason at all), as long as it is not illegal to do so “(legal match). With the University of Cincinnati, the teachers and officers are part of unions which protects them for the at-will employment clause, but the union cannot protect them from reasonable termination. The UC did not fire Tensing for no reason at all, but for what they saw as misconduct. Tensing termination was reasonable and unprotected by the union and therefore legal, and Tensing was not guaranteed to win. In fact, “Randy Freking, a local expert on employment law, said he’d be very surprised if Tensing were to be reinstated or be successful in any kind of lawsuit. “The lack of a conviction does not mean Tensing did not act improperly,” Freking said” (Murphy). If an expert on employment law believed that Tensing had no case, then why did UC believe that he did?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Rebecca Gossard

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