Jury selection started Monday for the trial of a White former police officer in North Charleston, S.C., charged with killing an unarmed Black motorist in an incident caught on video.
Michael Slager is accused of the 2015 murder of Walter Scott during a traffic stop in which the ex-cop fired at Scott as he fled, hitting him in the back several times. Cellphone video apparently shows Scott moving an object, possibly a taser toward his body. Slager later claimed Scott had tried to take his taser. The shooting ignited a storm of protests over Scott’s death.
After being indicted for murder in June 2015, Slager served time in solitary confinement before he was released on a $500,000 surety bond in January.
Prosecutors intend to argue that Slager acted unlawfully when he shot Scott and lied about Scott charging at him during the incident. Slager’s defense is expected to use Scott’s toxicology report, which showed traces of cocaine and alcohol in his blood, to sway the juror’s decision. In addition, the defense may claim that Slager shot Scott in self-defense, and that an altercation – not shown in the video – occurred.
Defense and prosecutors began the process of narrowing down the 188 potential jurors who reported for duty, which is expected to last a week.
Federal authorities are also reviewing the case, but will wait until the state’s proceedings are over before making a decision to prosecute him. If convicted, Slager could face 30 years to life without parole in prison. The trial could last up to two weeks, and depending on the outcome, it may prove to be a pivotal point in the nation’s woes with police brutality. Scott’s family has already been awarded a $6.5 million settlement from the city of North Charleston.