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Retrial delayed for ex-police officer in fatal Cincinnati motorist case

CINCINNATI (Reuters) - Jury selection was delayed on Tuesday in the retrial of a former University of Cincinnati police officer charged with murdering an unarmed black motorist, after the first trial ended in a mistrial.

FILE PHOTO - Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, charged with murdering a black man in a traffic stop, is seen in an undated booking photo released from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office in Ohio, U.S. on July 29, 2015. Courtesy Hamilton County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

Common Pleas Court Judge Leslie Ghiz dismissed the jury pool on Tuesday, citing an appeal by media concerning a ruling she had made regarding restricted media access during the trial. Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals on Friday temporarily dismissed Ghiz’s order, which she subsequently withdrew on Tuesday, according to local media.

Body-camera video of the July 2015 incident showed then-officer Ray Tensing, 27, shooting Samuel DuBose, 43, in the head during a traffic stop after stopping DuBose for a missing front license plate on his vehicle.

DuBose’s death fueled demonstrations against the use of lethal force by white officers against unarmed blacks and other minorities, an issue that renewed debate over racial bias among U.S. police.

Prospective jurors reported to the Hamilton County Courthouse in Cincinnati last Thursday to complete jury questionnaires, prior to the beginning of the selection process. A jury will be selected before opening statements begin.

A mistrial was declared last November in the first trial after jurors could not agree and prosecutors said they would retry Tensing.

Tensing, who was fired by the university police after he was charged, faces murder and voluntary manslaughter charges in the retrial. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on a $1 million bond.

A gag order has been placed on all parties. But Tensing’s attorney, Stew Mathews, said in November that the shooting was justified as Tensing feared for his life and only fired to prevent being run over. Mathews said the defense would remain unchanged.

During the traffic stop, Tensing asked DuBose to remove his seatbelt and tried to open the car door. DuBose did not comply and closed the door. The vehicle started rolling forward slowly as Tensing pulled his gun and fired once.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said last fall he felt his team had proven murder. Prosecutors argued Tensing was never in danger and exaggerated being dragged by DuBose’s vehicle.

On Friday, Ghiz excluded from evidence as too prejudicial the fact that on the day of the shooting Tensing wore a T-shirt bearing the Confederate battle flag under his uniform. The flag carried by the pro-slavery Confederate forces during the U.S. Civil War is viewed by many Americans as a symbol of hate and division.

Reporting by Ginny McCabe; editing by Ben Klayman, Frances Kerry and Dan Grebler