Last week saw the start of two high-profile shooting cases, both involving white police officers being charged with the shooting of a black civilian during a traffic stop. Given the circumstances, the cases caught a lot of attention from the media when they individually occurred in 2015. Both incidents involve video evidence of the incidents so it will be interesting to see what approach the defense attorneys decide to take. Furthermore, the media coverage of both cases will make it difficult to obtain an objective verdict from the jury.
The Slager case underwent jury selection last week and the Tensing case will see opening arguments starting this week.
Below is a summary of the two 2015 cases.
The Michael Slager Case:
- 34 year old Officer Michael Slager was charged with three charges- including murder and civil rights violations- after he shot and killed 50 year old civilian Walter Scott in April, 2015.
- In Charleston, South Carolina, Officer Slager pulled Scott over for a broken brake light.
- After being questioned by the Officer, Scott allegedly jumps out of the car and starts to run away from the scene. The Officer tasers Scott and the pair wrestle on the ground as he attempts to handcuff Scott. What happens after this appears to be up for interpretation- whether or not Slager shoots Scott in fear for his own life.
- Both dashcam video and witness video shows the Officer shooting Scott as he was trying to run away- with 5 of the 8 bullets hitting him.
The Ray Tensing Case
- 26-year-old University of Cincinnati Officer Ray Tensing was charged with murder after the shooting death of 43 year old Sam DuBose in July, 2015.
- In Cincinnati, Officer Tensing pulled DuBose over due to a missing license plate.
- According to bodycam footage, the Officer asks for DuBose’s license multiple times but DuBose responds with ambiguous answers and does not appear to have a license. During the conversation, DuBose is found to have had a full bottle of alcohol next to him.
- DuBose attempts to start the car, the pair scuffle and the Officer eventually shoots DuBose a single time. Immediately after the shooting, the Officer is heard saying that he thought DuBose was going to run him over.
Approximately 200 jury candidates are expected to appear for selection for the Slager case on Monday, after 600 summonses were sent to potential jurors- including a questionnaire determining their thoughts on racial tension and police conduct.
The Tensing jury selection also involved questionnaires on similar topics of race and police conduct. The Tensing trial began on October 25th and testimony is scheduled to start on Monday.
With both shootings involving traffic stops of black civilians by white officers, the eventual decisions in both cases will hopefully be accepting by the community as the jury will have the full information of what happened rather than selected media reports.
Furthermore, the outcome of such trials is likely to impact future police protocol in Cincinatti and South Carolina.
To read more about this case, you can look at the articles below:
Mark Nichols writing for the USA today wrote a good overview of both cases. Fox news also posted an article on the issues involved in jury selection.
Attorney DelSignore is a criminal defense Lawyer in Massachusetts, you can follow him on Facebook to stay current on issues relating to criminal defense.