A South Carolina judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case against police officer Michael Slager, who was charged with murder for shooting Michael Scott, a 50-year-old African American man, back in the spring of 2015. Despite a video showing Slager shooting Scott in the back multiple times while he was fleeing, one juror refused to convict the officer.
The jury — which consisted of six white men, five white women, and one black man — had been deliberating since last week, but was consistently unable to arrive at the unanimous verdict. They asked several questions of the judge, who instructed them to keep deliberating. He also offered to let them consider the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
According to the foreperson, one juror was “having issues.” The juror reportedly said unequivocally, “ I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict,” and, “I cannot and will not change my mind.” South Carolina Circuit Judge Clifton Newman thus declared a mistrial, which means the entire case must be retried.
The mistrial is surely a blow to Scott’s family, who told ThinkProgress last year how important it was that Scott’s fate not mirror that of victims from similar police shootings, like Michael Brown or Eric Garner, where charges were not filed against the officers responsible for ending their lives. “Not only will he get justice,” Scott’s brother Anthony said at the time, “but we don’t want to see it happen to another family anywhere in the United States.” Anthony said his family hoped to see Slager locked up for life.
Slager testified that he had pulled Scott over for a broken tail light and that Scott began to ran. He alleged that he then caught up to him, that there was a struggle, and that Scott had managed to take his Taser away, which led him to fear for his life. The video, however, shows no such struggle; instead, it shows Scott actually running away before being shot in the back. It also shows Slager picking something off the ground and placing it near the body; prosecutors argued he was planting the Taser there in an attempt to substantiate his version of events.
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Slager remains free on bond. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson confirmed plans to retry him, stating, “We hope the federal and state courts will coordinate efforts regarding any future trial dates but we stand ready whenever the court calls.”
— Mark Berman (@markberman) December 5, 2016