Questionnaires reveal some jurors’ fear before trial
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - 400 pages of juror questionnaires from the first trial of Ray Tensing were released Tuesday and they showed eight of the 12 jurors and four alternates feared riots would break out if they returned a verdict of not guilty.
The questionnaires were released Tuesday after attorneys for two media organizations were forced to request a hearing for their release. The names and personal information of the jurors was redacted.
The jurors were required to answer nearly 200 questions.
"There's nothing in there that's a surprise," said defense attorney Jay Clark. "The things that you're looking for are a juror that is open to considering the evidence and has not prejudged one way or the other."
A few of the jurors marked on the questionnaire that they feared for their safety and that civil unrest would follow. One juror wrote "no matter the verdict, I believe the public would react either way because it's a very sensitive matter."
The prosecution has said it will try Tensing a second time. But in a strange twist Prosecutor Joe Deters asked that the second trial be moved to another county out of concern that fear may have impacted deliberations.
"It's very rare to see in my experience, with over 25 years the state asking for a change of venue," Clark said.
Clark represented Ryan Widmer. The Warren County man was found guilty of killing his wife. Before Widmer's third trial, the prosecutor in Warren Co. also requested a change of venue. The request was denied. Typically change of venues are requested by a defendant because he or she feels they cannot get a fair trial.
"Really there's nowhere in the Constitution that says the State is entitled to a fair trial. They have all of the other advantages. They have the manpower, the scientific resources behind that. The Constitution protects individuals - not the State," Clark said.
Two African-American women served on the jury. Both said in the jury questionnaires they believed the criminal justice system wasn’t fair. The remaining jurors were white and only one said he believed the system was unfair.
Judge Leslie Ghiz was assigned to the case Tuesday, November 29, after two other judges – Tom Heekin and Beth Myers – declined to hear the case. Judge Megan Shanahan recused herself Monday. Judge Ghiz will decide whether the State’s change of venue motion will be granted.