The defense for a white former police officer charged with murder can tell jurors about marijuana found in the car driven by the unarmed black man he fatally shot after a traffic stop, an Ohio judge ruled Wednesday.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Megan Shanahan, however, rejected defense efforts to also introduce records of 43-year-old Sam DuBose’s long conviction history or about his health. She also said toxicology results indicating marijuana use weren’t relevant because there was no way to know when he had last used marijuana.
“It, frankly, has no place in this trial,” Shanahan said.
Former University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing, 26, is charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter in the 2015 shooting of DuBose, who was pulled over near campus for a missing front license plate. Tensing’s attorney Stewart Mathews has said his client feared for his life as DuBose tried to drive away.
Mathews contended in a hearing that DuBose was anxious to get away because he had a significant amount of marijuana — authorities have said several bags and a vial were found — in the vehicle and also had a lengthy criminal record. He also suggested his marijuana use and an undisclosed medical condition affected DuBose’s reaction.
Prosecutors described the defense motions on evidence as attempts at “character assassination” of DuBose.
“I said it over a year ago, you don’t get shot in the head for rolling away from a stop for no front license plate,”Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Trying to impugn Sam DuBose is simply not relevant.”
Shanahan agreed that DuBose’s dozens of convictions, mostly for marijuana-related offenses and traffic violations, could cause “unfair prejudice.” She then called defense claims that DuBose’s behavior after the stop was affected by his medical condition “a leap,” before ruling on the marijuana found in the car after the shooting.
“It is appropriate that the marijuana that was found in the vehicle come in during the course of the trial if the defense so chooses to present that,” Shanahan said after hearing arguments from both sides. She said marijuana was found in multiple places, including “on Samuel DuBose’s person.”
Courtroom questioning of potential jurors begins next Monday.
Image: Photos of Sam DuBose hang on a pole at a memorial near where he was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer during a July 19, 2015, traffic stop in Cincinnati.