CINCINNATI – An Ohio judge in the murder retrial of a former University of Cincinnati police officer rejected a prosecution request Thursday to allow jurors to consider a lesser charge.
Just before the defense began calling witnesses, prosecutor Seth Tieger asked that reckless homicide be added as an option to the murder and voluntary manslaughter counts that Ray Tensing's first jury deadlocked on in November.
Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz responded that prosecutors "had every opportunity" to add the lesser charge before Tensing's second trial began.
"It is the prosecutor's job, not this court's job, to include reckless homicide," she said.
The case is among several across the United States that have raised attention in recent years to how police respond to blacks.
Tensing, who is white, is charged in the 2015 traffic-stop shooting of an unarmed black motorist, Sam DuBose. Tensing has said he feared for his life as DuBose tried to drive away and shot "to stop the threat."
A reckless homicide charge would mean the 27-year-old former officer allegedly acted with "heedless indifference" to the consequences.
The judge said prosecutors were asking her to give the jury an option she doesn't see is warranted based on the evidence so far. But she agreed to reconsider the request before the jury begins deliberations.
In arguing against the request, defense attorney Stewart Mathews said prosecutors were trying to give jurors "every opportunity to reach a compromise verdict," which he said the court shouldn't encourage.
To convict Tensing of murder, jurors must decide that he purposely killed DuBose, 43. The crime carries a possible sentence of 15 years to life in prison. The voluntary manslaughter charge means the killing happened during sudden passion or a fit of rage, carrying a possible prison sentence of three to 11 years.
Reckless homicide carries a possible sentence of nine months to 3 years in prison.
Some legal experts said before the first trial that prosecutors should have given jurors another lesser charge. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told WCPO-TV just before the retrial he thought the judge might add a lesser charge.
Follow Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell