The racially-charged murder trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager was declared a mistrial today. The jury failed to come to a conclusion, due to a single juror who refused to consider a “guilty” verdict.
Slager was charged with fatally shooting an unarmed black man named Walter Scott in South Carolina last year. In April 2015, Slager pulled Scott over in a routine traffic stop. According to footage taken by a bystander, after some form of physical struggle, Scott began to run away from Slager, who shot him in the back multiple times. During the trial, the defense claimed Slager, who is white, feared for his life.
The jury included only one African-American, who served as its foreman. After four days of deliberations, only one anonymous juror appeared unwilling to convict Slager. According to a note read out loud in court, the juror felt he could not “consider in good conscience a guilty verdict.”
The foreman said, “That juror needs to leave. He is having issues.”
This doesn’t mean Slager will get off scot-free. He still faces a Department of Justice investigation for violating Scott’s civil rights. According to local media, the chief prosecutor in the case Scarlett Wilson said she will retry Slager.
The killing of Walter Scott is one of many several high-profile police shootings that have caused national outrage. It was unusual in that Slager was quickly charged with a crime, but the outcome of the trial is a familiar pattern of deadlock and mistrial.
The jury’s decision shocked observers of all political outlooks:
The jury had the option to consider the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, but it did not choose this route.