Mistrial Declared in S.C. Police Officer Murder Trial

By DAN MCCUE

(CN) – A mistrial has been declared in the trial of a white former South Carolina police officer charged with the murder of an unarmed black motorist.

Circuit Judge Clifton Newman declared the mistrial shortly before 3:30 p.m. on Monday after the jury said it was unable to unanimously agree on a verdict.

Jurors had deliberated more than 22 hours over four days.

On Monday morning, the jury  passed a note to the judge asking for further instructions from the court.

Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager is accused of murdering Walter Scott during what began as a routine traffic stop for a broken taillight on April 4, 2015.

Scott bolted from the scene, reportedly because he feared arrest for failure to pay child support. Slager caught up to Scott in a nearby park, and in a scene captured on video by a passerby, shot the unarmed man in the back five times, killing him.

Slager has maintained that what the video doesn’t show is a physical altercation that occurred before the passerby happened on the scene, and that during that conflict, Scott grabbed the officer’s Taser.

Slager says he feared for his life after that happened and that’s why he fired at the fleeing man.

The note passed to Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman Monday morning asked a number of questions about the law and how certain nuances of it should be interpreted.

Among the questions the jurors asked was why Newman added voluntary manslaughter to the charges Slager faces – a development that occurred last week — and how long someone must have malice in their mind to be convicted of murder.

In South Carolina murder is defined as killing someone as an act of malice.

The jurors also wanted to know whether the definition of self-defense for a police officer is different for an average person.

Newman has said he will retry the case with a different jury.

Slager’s attorney, Andrew Savage, had no comment after the mistrial was announced.

The City of North Charleston, for whom Slager was working at the time of the shooting, released a statement late Monday afternoon that said “In April 2015, Michael Slager was arrested and charged with murder. Since that time, the case has remained outside the city’s jurisdiction and within the judicial process. Until a final decision is rendered, the City of North Charleston and Mayor [Keith] Summey will continue to refrain from commenting on or discussing the case.”