By Ginny McCabe
CINCINNATI (Reuters) - Lawyers on both sides in the trial of a white former University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot a black motorist and whose two cases ended in mistrials said on Wednesday they previously discussed a plea agreement.
Officer Ray Tensing was charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter, but the juries at both trials, including one last month, could not agree on a verdict.
Prosecutors are still free to pursue a third trial against Tensing, but have not disclosed their plans. However, attorneys for both sides said that before the second trial, prosecutors indicated they would accept a deal for the lesser charge of reckless homicide.
The incident occurred in July 2015 and was captured by Tensing's body camera. He had stopped Samuel DuBose, 43, for missing a front license plate on his car. Tensing testified during both trials that he feared for his life and shot once, hitting DuBose in the head.
An attorney for Tensing and a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said that prior to the start of the second trial the sides discussed a possible plea agreement.
Julie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office, told Reuters by telephone that prosecutor Joe Deters and Tensing's attorney, Stew Mathews, discussed a possible agreement after running into each other on the street.
"Obviously, I don't have the exact words, but that Mr. Deters said to Mr. Mathews, 'If the defendant came to us with some possible plea, and it could be something like a reckless homicide, that we would consider it, and discuss it with the family,'" Wilson said.
"Mathews made (it) clear that the defendant would not take any kind of plea to a felony," she added.
It was unclear when and where the discussions between the two attorneys took place.
Mathews confirmed the two sides had discussed a plea agreement and said one was offered, but declined to provide details.
“It was offered, but I’m not going to go into it any further,” he told Reuters.
The university police fired Tensing after he was charged. DuBose's shooting added to the debate in the United States over the use of excessive force by police, especially against minorities.
The second mistrial was called after a police officer in Minnesota was acquitted of killing a black motorist and two days after a former Milwaukee cop was found not guilty of reckless homicide in the fatal shooting of a black man.
(Writing by Tim Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis)