Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing avoided prison last month for the shooting of Sam DuBose. He was the third police officer within a week in July to stay out of prison after killing a black person on duty. In Tensing’ second trial, the jury was deadlocked for several days, after which a judge declared a mistrial, according to Time. A hung jury was the result from his first trial, as well. The other two officers, Jeronimo Yanez of Minnesota, and Dominique Heaggan-Brown were both found not guilty in their respective trials, despite solid evidence of guilt.
Tensing’s lawyers argued that he had feared for his life in the traffic stop that ended up with DuBose being shot dead. Tensing testified on his own behalf that he was worried he was about to be dragged into DuBose’s car. However, an expert testified after examining the video that he was not about to be dragged into the car. It’s not common for a defendant to testify at their own trial, but Tensing did in both of his. Juries in police killing trials are asked to use a “reasonable officer” standard that makes it more difficult to get a conviction. They are instructed not to second guess an officer’s judgment, but to weigh the evidence against whether the officer acted in a reasonable way.
These three cases are just some of the many incidents around the country of police killing unarmed black citizens. While it was always hard to get a conviction under the “reasonable officer”, it seems as if these cases are going to trial more often as a national conversation about police killings and police brutality grabs headlines. As the spotlight shines more on the issue, we can expect more police officers to be brought to trial than in the past. However, convicting them continues to be a challenge. All three officers were fired from their respective departments as well based on the evidence in their respective cases, which is also a change. Many officers in the past avoided losing their jobs, although they may have been suspended with pay or transferred to a position that doesn’t involve working out in public.
The issue of police brutality has been at the forefront over the past few weeks after the controversial comments by President Trump at a gathering of law enforcement officers recently. He stated that officers should purposely bang suspects heads on cruiser door frames when they were being placed in the car. His statement was met with cheers, however, several police departments have denounced the speech. A spokesperson for the president claims he was joking.
Getting pulled over for a traffic violation or being charged with a crime are stressful and sometimes confusing situations. In Cincinnati, if you feel that you’ve been the victim of police brutality, contact a criminal defense attorney right away to protect your constitutional rights. No one should be subject to such actions from the people who are meant to protect and serve all citizens, not just the ones they deem acceptable.