Jurors weighing a murder charge against a white South Carolina former police officer who shot and killed a fleeing black motorist last year will resume their deliberations on Monday after struggling to reach a unanimous verdict.
Jurors twice told a state judge on Friday, their third day of deliberations, that they were deadlocked in the case against ex-North Charleston patrolman Michael Slager, 35. His shooting of 50-year-old Walter Scott after an April 2015 traffic stop was captured in a bystander’s cellphone video and intensified debate in the United States over racial bias by police.
The jury foreman said one member of the 12-person panel disagreed with the rest. But jurors later said further deliberation could prove fruitful if the judge provided more explanation of the law.
“I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict,” the holdout juror told Judge Clifton Newman in a note, adding, “At the same time, my heart does not want to tell the Scott family that the man who killed their son, brother and father is innocent.”
Jurors first indicated they were unable to reach a consensus Friday afternoon.
The judge at that point said they had a duty “to make every reasonable effort to reach a unanimous verdict” and instructed them to continue their deliberations.
Newman said he would declare a mistrial if no verdict was reached and retry the case later with a different jury.
Last year, two juries deadlocked on a murder charge against a white former Eutawville, South Carolina, police chief accused of killing a black man in 2011 after an argument about a traffic ticket issued to the man’s daughter.
Prosecutors charged Slager with murder, but jurors also had the option of finding him guilty of voluntary manslaughter if they decided Slager killed Scott in the heat of passion after provocation rather than with malice.
Or they could acquit the former officer if they believed he acted in self-defense.
The jury of 11 white people and one black person heard four weeks of testimony from more than 50 witnesses.
Prosecutors repeatedly showed the video in court and said the footage proved Slager was not in danger when he fired eight shots at the fleeing Scott, hitting him with five bullets.
But Slager said he did not know at the time that Scott was unarmed. The ex-cop testified he felt “total fear” after the motorist grabbed his stun gun during a scuffle between the two men.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Grant McCool and Jonathan Oatis)