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Mistrial Declared In SC Officer's Murder Trial

A bystander's cell phone video showed officer Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott.
A bystander's cell phone video showed officer Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott.

A mistrial has been declared in the murder trial of former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager. Despite more than 22 hours of deliberation over four days, jurors told the judge Monday they couldn't reach a verdict.  

Slager, who was an officer with the North Charleston police department, had been charged with murder in the shooting of 50-year-old Walter Scott in April 2015. The unarmed African-American motorist was shot five times in the back as he ran from Slager after a traffic stop, for a broken taillight.

The jury had sent the judge a note Monday morning saying a majority were undecided about a verdict.

They also asked the judge several questions:

  • Why was voluntary manslaughter added as a charge? Slager was charged with murder, but the judge told jurors before they began deliberating they also could consider the lesser charge.
  • How long someone must have malice toward a victim to make it murder?
  • Whether there’s a different definition of self-defense for police officers?

The mistrial came despite a cell phone video that showed Slager shooting Scott as he ran away.  Slager testified that he feared for his life when he said Scott wrestled with him, got control of his Taser, and pointed it at him.
In the bystander’s cell phone video, Slager is seen dropping the Taser near Scott’s body

On Friday, the jury reported that one juror was not ready to convict Slager. But this morning's note said a majority on the panel of 11 whites and one black were still undecided.

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.