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Activists Decry Racial Makeup Of Jury As Cincinnati Officer Trial Begins

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University of Cincinnati
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University of Cincinnati Police

Civil rights activists are criticizing the racial makeup of the jury seated for the murder trial of a white University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man.

The Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati group posted a message on its Facebook page stating that the jury seated shows a justice system that "continues to refuse to recognize the prejudices and racism" in existence. Members of the group plan to keep up demonstrations outside the Hamilton County courthouse during Ray Tensing's trial.

The since-fired officer has pleaded not guilty to murder and voluntary manslaughter counts in the 2015 shooting of Sam DuBose, who was stopped for a missing front license plate.

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Credit Cincinnati Police Dept.
Ray Tensing

Two blacks, both women, were seated Monday for the 12-person jury that has six white men and four white women. Four white women were added as alternate jurors after a day of questioning by attorneys who urged jury candidates to put aside race, news stories and police perceptions for the case of the now-fired officer.

The 2010 U.S. Census put Cincinnati's black population at nearly 45 percent of the city's total.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters began opening statements Tuesday after jurors made a short visit to the scene of the July 2015 shooting. He says 26-year-old Tensing acted contrary to his training, contrary to the oath he took as a police officer, and contrary to the law on justified shootings.

Deters also told jurors that Tensing lied about what happened when claiming he feared for his life from being dragged by DuBose's car as the 43-year-old man tried to drive away from the traffic stop.

Attorney Stewart Mathews has told jurors that Tensing's body was being twisted and he was going down as DuBose "mashed" the accelerator and tried to drive away with tires squealing. He says Tensing's actions were justified to save his own life or avoid serious injury.

Mathews also told jurors in his opening statement Tuesday that DuBose had enough marijuana in his car to face a felony conviction. The court session ended for the day shortly after Matthews' opening statement.

Hamilton County Judge Megan Shanahan rejected a defense motion Tuesday to move the trial out of Hamilton County.