Walter Scott Trial Enters 3rd Day of Deliberations
A South Carolina jury has entered a third day of deliberations in the murder trial of a police officer who was fired from his job after he shot and killed an unarmed Black male motorist.
The killing sparked national outrage after video taken by a witness was circulated online.
Michael Slager, who is White, is charged in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott who was shot five times in the back as he fled from Slager after being pulled over in North Charleston on April 4, 2015.
Slager pulled Scott over for having a broken taillight on his vehicle.
By early Friday, the 12-member jury – comprised of 11 White members and one African-American – had deliberated more than 10 hours over three days.
The jury is being allowed to consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which is shooting someone in the heat of passion. A murder conviction, which requires the jury to agree that Slager had malice toward Scott, carries a sentence of 30 years to life.
Voluntary manslaughter carries a sentence of from two to 30 years.
Judge Clifton Newman told the jurors Friday morning that the court could not instruct them on how the heat of passion may differ from fear. The jury asked for definitions of both late Thursday, but the judge said it’s an issue jurors must decide.
Slager testified he feared for his life when he shot Scott.
While on the stand, Slager testified that Scott, 50, fled the traffic stop and attempted to wrestle away is Taser during a scuffle. He said he shot Scott out of fear for his own life.
“In my mind at that time was, people don’t run for a broken taillight. There’s always another reason,” he testified. “I don’t know why he ran. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
He described yelling stop and “Taser! Taser! Taser!” as he caught up to Scott.
He said he shot his Taser three times, firing both sets of electric darts before using the emptied weapon near Scott’s skin in a so-called “dry stun.”
The cellphone video begins at roughly this point, showing Scott breaking away from what Slager said was their confrontation over the Taser.
“At that point I pulled my firearm and pulled the trigger,” he said. “I fired until the threat was stopped as I was trained to do.”
Slager did show remorse when cross-examined by the defense.
“My family has been destroyed by this,” he said, as tears dripped down his face. “Scott’s family has been destroyed by this. It’s horrible.”
Cellphone video captured by a witness shows Scott fleeing from Slager, who fires eight shots. Scott was struck three times in the back, once in the ear and once in the buttocks.
The judge told the jurors they needed to apply their common sense and understanding of common words and phrases. He said the jurors should consult his jury charge, of which they have a copy.
The charge to the jury said that “sudden heat of passion may, for a time, affect a person’s self-control and temporarily disturb a person’s reason.”