Mistrial Declared in Walter Scott Case
A judge has declared a mistrial in the police shooting case of Walter Scott by a former South Carolina police officer after the jury remained deadlocked for several days.
Michael Slager faced murder charges in the death of the African-American motorist he encountered on April 4, 2015 and eventually fired upon as he ran away. Despite 22 hours of deliberation over the course of days, jurors could not come to a unanimous agreement that Slager, 35, was not justified in killing Scott, 50.
“We as a jury regret to inform the court that despite the best efforts of all parties we are unable to come to a unanimous decision,” said Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, reading a note from the jury before declaring a mistrial.
The trial had come down to the 11th hour on Friday when the jury told Circuit Judge Clifton Newman that it was deadlocked. At that point a threat loomed that a mistrial would be declared. Newman instructed the jurors to continue deliberating until they had reached an agreement. Reportedly, a single juror was not willing to convict him on the murder charge. The jury also had the option of convicting Slager on a voluntary manslaughter charge. Either way, the jury vote had to be unanimous to convict.
A jury of 11 Whites and 1 Black sat for Slager’s trial. It is unclear what the racial background of the holdout juror was. Slager still faces federal charges that could result in life behind bars for him.
Despite failing to get a conviction on what they felt was an obvious case of guilt, prosecutors said they will opt for another trial.
“While I cannot overstate our disappointment that this case was not resolved, I commend those who sacrificed so much time, energy and effort to serve on this jury,” Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett said in a statement. “We will try Michael Slager again.”
Slager faced 30 years to if he had been convicted in Scott’s death whose shooting, captured on a bystander’s dramatic cellphone video, spread on social media and stunned the nation. Slager had pulled Scott over for a broken taillight on his car, but he said Scott ran away and when he caught up with him, the two of him wrestled on the ground. He said that Scott grabbed his taser and pointed it at him. He testified that he shot at Scott in fear for his life. “At that point I pulled my firearm and pulled the trigger,” he testified. “I fired until the threat was stopped as I was trained to do.”
A cellphone video taken by a bystander captures Slager shooting Scott five times in the back as he ran away. As news of the video circulated, Slager was fired and later charged with Scott’s murder.
Prosecutors argued that the video made things cut and dry, and that Slager obviously shot an unarmed man in the back, but had no reason for use of deadly force. But he maintained in testimony that what was not on the video was as pertinent as what was on it.
The Scott family, which was awarded $6.5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit had no statements after the trial concluded, according to their attorney Justin Bamberg.