On Monday, the judge presiding over the case of a former South Carolina police officer who shot and killed an unarmed African-American man last year declared a mistrial after a jury failed to reach a consensus after days of deliberation.
Ex-officer Michael Slager was charged in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott, who he shot five times in the back as Scott fled a traffic stop after the officer pulled him over for a busted taillight. The shocking encounter was captured on a bystander’s cellphone video.
According to CBS News, the mistrial came after a month-long trial and several days of deliberation as jurors weighed in on whether the disgraced cop should face a murder or voluntary manslaughter conviction.
Jury members announced Friday that they were not able to come to a unanimous decision, but the judge sent them back to finish deliberating. It turned out to be a single juror who was holding up the case, insisting that he/she found it impossible to agree with the other jurors (11 whites and one Black) on a guilty verdict, according a letter read by Judge Clifton Newman.
“[I] can’t in good conscience approve a guilty verdict,” the unnamed juror wrote in the letter, asserting that he/she probably wouldn’t change his/her mind.
Hoping that further deliberation would yield a unanimous verdict in the case, the jury said it wished to return to court Monday to continue deciding on whether to convict Slager, CBS News reported. By 4:30 p.m. Monday, however, jurors said they were still deadlocked or undecided, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial.
Prior to Newman’s announcement, USA Today reported that jurors asked the judge several questions, like why the former officer was being charged with manslaughter in addition to murder, and whether the self-defense standard for a police officer is the same as it is for other people.
If convicted in Scott’s murder, Slager could have spent the rest of his life in prison. The voluntary manslaughter charge, however, carries anywhere from two to 30 years behind bars.
Throughout the racially charged trial, the ex-officer maintained he feared for his life and claimed that Scott tried to wrestle away his taser. Bystander video of the fatal encounter showed an an entirely different story, however, as Slager was seen firing multiple rounds at the African-American man as he ran away from the officer. The video also showed Slager dropping his taser next to Scott’s body after Scott was on the ground.
Scott was fatally wounded, suffering three shots to the back, one to his backside and another to the ear, USA Today reported. Slager was charged with murder shortly after the shooting but has been free on $500,000 bond since January.
In October 2015, the city of North Charleston agreed to pay Scott’s family a $6.5 million settlement, the largest in state history.