Judge de­clares mis­trial in of­fi­cer’s fa­tal shoot­ing of black mo­torist

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY AN­DREA NOBLE ● This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

A South Carolina judge de­clared a mis­trial Mon­day in the mur­der trial of a white po­lice of­fi­cer who fa­tally shot a flee­ing black man af­ter the jury was un­able to agree on a ver­dict.

The jury’s in­de­ci­sion came as a shock: Video footage of the April 2015 in­ci­dent, cou­pled with law en­force­ment’s quick de­ci­sion to bring charges, led many to ex­pect an open-and-shut case.

Cell­phone video taken by a by­stander showed for­mer North Charleston Po­lice Of­fi­cer Michael Slager fir­ing eight rounds at 50-year-old Wal­ter Scott as he ran from the of­fi­cer. Mr. Slager was in­dicted on crim­i­nal charges days af­ter the shoot­ing and sum­mar­ily dis­missed from the depart­ment.

Af­ter de­lib­er­a­tions span­ning about 22 hours, the 12 ju­rors were un­able to reach a unan­i­mous ver­dict. Mr. Slager was charged with first-de­gree mur­der, but the jury also could have con­sid­ered a con­vic­tion on vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter.

Pros­e­cu­tor Scar­lett Wil­son said she in­tends to retry the case as soon as the court is ready to pro­ceed.

At­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the Scott fam­ily called the mis­trial a “missed op­por­tu­nity for jus­tice” but had no qualms with how prose­cu­tors han­dled the case and felt con­fi­dent that a sec­ond trial will re­sult in a con­vic­tion.

“The fight isn’t over, that was Round One,” said at­tor­ney L. Chris Ste­wart. “He may have de­layed jus­tice, but he did not es­cape it. We all saw what he did.”

It’s un­clear how quickly a re­trial could be­gin as Mr. Slager also faces charges in a fed­eral case. The Jus­tice Depart­ment brought civil rights and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice charges against Mr. Slager, al­leg­ing he used ex­ces­sive force with­out le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and made false state­ments to law en­force­ment in­ves­ti­gat­ing the shoot­ing. That case is sched­uled to be­gin early next year.

Mr. Slager shot Scott dur­ing an al­ter­ca­tion af­ter he had pulled over the mo­torist for a bro­ken tail­light and Scott ran from his car. Video shows Mr. Slager shoot­ing Scoot as he ran. The widely dis­trib­uted footage ig­nited con­cerns across the na­tion about mis­treat­ment of blacks by po­lice.

While the by­stander footage clearly shows Mr. Slager fir­ing eight rounds at Scott, the de­fense team fo­cused on the en­counter be­tween the two men in the mo­ments be­fore the record­ing be­gan.

Mr. Slager tes­ti­fied that he stunned Scott three times with his Taser as he chased him and told him to stop.

While Scott was on the ground, Mr. Slager said the mo­torist grabbed the Taser and pointed it at him. Scott was un­armed, but the for­mer of­fi­cer said he was in “to­tal fear” when he fired his ser­vice weapon.

Con­cern that the case would end in a mis­trial first sur­faced Fri­day, when a ju­ror sent a note to the Cir­cuit Judge Clifton New­man in­di­cat­ing that the ju­ror would be un­able to find Mr. Slager guilty. The judge or­dered the ju­rors back into de­lib­er­a­tions for sev­eral hours Fri­day be­fore fi­nally send­ing them home over the week­end.

It was ap­par­ent Mon­day that the panel of 11 white ju­rors and one black ju­ror was still hav­ing dif­fi­culty reach­ing con­sen­sus.

Read­ing from a note sent by the jury Mon­day morn­ing, Judge New­man said the “ma­jor­ity of the ju­rors are still un­de­cided” and they re­quested help with sev­eral le­gal ques­tions and def­i­ni­tions, ask­ing why a man­slaugh­ter con­vic­tion was given as an op­tion in the first-de­gree mur­der case. The ju­rors also sought def­i­ni­tions for terms like “im­mi­nent dan­ger” and asked whether the def­i­ni­tion of self-de­fense is dif­fer­ent for a po­lice of­fi­cer than the av­er­age per­son.

At one point Fri­day, it ap­peared as though it was only a lone ju­ror who was pre­vent­ing the jury from reach­ing a unan­i­mous guilty ver­dict.

“I can­not in good con­science con­sider a guilty ver­dict,” the hold­out ju­ror wrote to the judge in a note sent Fri­day. “At the same time, my heart does not want to tell the Scott fam­ily that the man who killed their son, brother and fa­ther is in­no­cent.”

It was not im­me­di­ately clear how many of the ju­rors had voted for a guilty or not guilty ver­dict.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Judge Clifton New­man de­clared a mis­trial the trial of for­mer North Charleston po­lice of­fi­cer Michael Slager, who is charged with shoot­ing a black mo­torist in South Carolina last year.

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