The trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager in the shooting death of Walter Scott on April 4, 2015, has reached a point in jury deliberations that very well could see a hung jury. As of Monday, December 5, the fourth day of jury deliberations and Day 19 of the trial, the jury has sent written notice to Circuit Judge Clifton Newman that several jurors remain undecided as to a verdict, a slightly different message than was sent on Friday when several notes to the judge indicated that one man, a lone juror “having issues” over a guilty verdict, wrote the judge saying he could not “in good conscience” find Slager guilty.
USA Today reported Monday that Judge Clifton Newman rejected the defense’s request for a mistrial in the case of former police officer Michael Slager, 35, a white patrolman who was charged with the murder of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man shot five times by Slager as he ran from the scene where he had been pulled over for a traffic violation. Part of the incident — where Scott broke away from Slager to run, and the police officer subsequently fired his weapon at the fleeing man — was captured on a cell phone video by a passerby, making headlines nationwide as another example of white policemen shooting unarmed black men.
Defense lawyers for Slager argued that a deadlocked jury on Friday was sufficient grounds for a mistrial.
According to NBC News, a lone juror had sent the judge a note stating, “I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict” against Slager. The juror also wrote, “I cannot and will not change my mind.”
Two other notes to Newman noted that the juror was “having issues.”
Still, the jury had requested that they be allowed to continue deliberations, so the judge granted the request. “If you do not agree on a verdict, I must declare a mistrial,” Newman said. “The same participants will come, and the same lawyers will likely ask basically the same questions, and get basically the same answers and we will go through this whole process again.”
As of Monday morning, the judge had again received word from the jury, along with several questions. This time, however, it was indicated that not just one but most of the jurors were now undecided.
One of the questions asked by the jury was why the judge had also included that the jury could consider a lesser charge of manslaughter in Slager’s case. Prior to deliberations, Judge Newman had informed the jury that, in addition to considering a murder conviction, it could also consider rendering a manslaughter verdict.
On Monday, according to the Charleston Post and Courier, the judge told the jury that including a manslaughter charge was appropriate in that there was sufficient evidence that such a charge should be included in the deliberations. Judge Newman also told the jury that a manslaughter charge was defined as an unlawful killing and that the charge did not require the additional malice that a murder verdict must meet.
Newman also reminded the jury that they could find that the state’s evidence did not “[prove] guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Michael Slager could receive a sentence of life in prison if convicted of Walter Scott’s murder, but a conviction for voluntary manslaughter could see him receive a sentence of anywhere from two years to 30 years.
As recounted by USA Today, the former police officer was fired from the North Charleston Police force following the shooting death of Walter Scott and charged with his murder within days of the release of the cell phone video, which was seen to contradict his official police report. He left confinement in January after posting a $500,000 bond.
But Michael Slager’s legal battles will not end anytime soon, regardless of the jury’s final rendering. He also faces trial in federal court, where he is charged with violating Walter Scott’s civil rights, obstruction of justice and a gun violation.
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