Judge declares mistrial in case of ex-North Charleston officer charged in murder of Walter Scott
CHARLESTON, S.C. — The judge in the murder trial of former North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager on Monday declared a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a verdict after four days of deliberations.
Slager, who is white, shot and killed Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, after a 2015 traffic stop. The shooting was captured on a bystander’s cell phone video, which showed Scott running away as Slager shot him multiple times in the back.
Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson in a statement Monday expressed disappointment but said: “We will try Michael Slager again.”
The jury, which deliberated for 22 hours in the case, had indicated Friday it was deadlocked — a fact that made Monday’s mistrial all the more disappointing for the Scott family.
The jurors, 11 white and one African-American, returned three times to deliberate on Friday after telling Judge Clifton Newman they were unable to gain a consensus. In a note, one juror said he couldn’t vote for a conviction and wouldn’t change his mind.
“Injustice will not prevail,” said Judy Scott, Walter Scott’s mother, after the mistrial was declared. “He will get his just reward.”
Earlier on Monday, jurors passed a note to the judge that said, “Despite the best efforts of our members we are unable to come to a unanimous decision.”
Wilson then thanked jurors for their service, saying even though she is disappointed she respects their decision.
Wilson urged jurors not to let “anyone from the outside get in your head” and make them question their decision.
“Y’all seen every minute of this trial,” she said. “You have sacrificed more than any of your peers.”
Wilson said she hoped to speak with the jurors to gain insight into the strength of their case as prosecutors decide how to move forward.
Defense attorney Andy Savage also thanked the jury for its service. “The rule of law has to be preserved in this country,” he said.
Slager was charged with murder. There are no degrees to the murder charge in South Carolina. If convicted, Slager faced 30 years to life in prison.
Newman had allowed the jury to consider the lesser offense of manslaughter, which carries a potential sentence of up to 30 years in prison.
On the stand, Slager argued self-defense, telling jurors he shot Scott as he ran away because he posed a threat and could have turned around and charged him.
A key piece of evidence in the five-week trial was the cell phone video, which showed Slager chasing Scott, then shooting him in the back. Prosecutors estimated the two were 18 feet apart when Slager opened fire.
Slager is scheduled to go on trial early next year on federal charges, including civil rights offenses, related to the shooting.
“He dodged it by a hair and he’s not dodging it again,” said L. Chris Stewart, a lawyer for the Scott family, after the mistrial was declared.
After the trial, some in the city’s African-American community expressed disappointment.
“We never see a win,” pastor and community activist Thomas Dixon told WCIV. “Our people need to get something in the win column when it comes to these officer-involved shootings. I don’t believe justice was served today.”
The shooting was one of several killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement caught on video, including the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York. The deaths have led to protests nationwide about police misconduct in cases involving black men.
In the statement, Wilson said prosecutors were grateful to Walter Scott’s family for their “patience, understanding and cooperation with us.”
“The Scotts have been a sterling example of dignity and grace in extraordinary circumstances,” Wilson said.