The court case against Michael Slager—the White North Charleston ex-police officer who was captured on video fatally shooting Walter Scott in the back five times—is over. After 22 hours of deliberation, the jury reported today (December 5) that it could not agree on a verdict on the murder charge or the lesser manslaughter charge. Circuit Judge Clifton Newman declared a mistrial. The Post and Courier reports that Slager is free on bail tonight.
Following the decision, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson vowed that the fight to prosecute the former officer is not over. “We will try Michael Slager again,” she said in a statement. “We hope the federal and state courts will coordinate efforts regarding any future trial dates but we stand ready whenever the court calls.” Slager still faces three federal civil rights charges, which could carry a sentence of life in prison. The dismissed jury was composed of six White men, five White women and one Black man. One of the White men was reportedly the holdout on the jury.
Last Friday (December 2)—after the members of the jury said they were were deadlocked and the judge sent them back to try continue deliberating—Newman read a note from one of the jurors: “I cannot with good conscience consider a guilty verdict,” ABC News reports. “At the same time my heart does not want to have to tell the Scott family that the man that killed their son, brother and father is innocent.”
On April 4, 2015, Slager killed Scott, an unarmed Black man, during a traffic stop. He told officials that he shot the 50-year-old man because he feared feared for his life, but video showed that not only did he shoot Scott in the back as he ran away, but that he briefly planted his Taser beside the man’s fallen body. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) described his crime as follows in a May 2016 statement:
The indictment alleges that Michael Slager, while acting as [a North Charleston Police Department] officer, used excessive force when he shot and killed Walter Scott without legal justification. Slager was also charged with obstruction of justice for making false statements to South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigators with the intent to impede the investigation into the shooting. The indictment alleges that Slager intentionally misled SLED investigators by claiming that Scott was coming toward him with a Taser at the time that Slager fired his weapon, when in truth, Scott was running away.
At a press conference this afternoon, Scott family attorney L. Chris Stewart said that the decision represented a “missed opportunity for justice, missed opportunity to heal a lot of wounds in this country.” But he made it clear that the war is just beginning.
“If you thought that we were gonna come out here crying or weeping or weak, then you don’t know the Scott family, who have become my family,” he said. “The fight isn’t over. That was round one. We’ve got two more rounds to go. The solicitor is trying this case again, as soon as she can. The DOJ is trying this case as soon as they can. He may have delayed justice, but he did not escape it. We all saw what he did. We all saw what happened…. We aren’t worried.”
Watch the full press conference below, courtesy of WCSC.