The family of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old unarmed black resident of Charleston, S.C., may finally see justice as his killer, Michael Slager, 35, faces prison after a month-long trial. The only thing standing in the way of justice is a single, intransigent juror.
Slager's attorneys are asking for a mistrial should the jury be unable to agree on a sentence after 14 hours of deliberation. If Judge Clifton Newman declares a mistrial, the trial will begin again with an entirely new jury at a later date.
According to Reuters, a single juror is holding up the sentencing after sending a note to Newman that said, "I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict. 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."
The jury is shockingly composed of 11 white jurors and only 1 black juror, which drew criticism that Slager's defense attorneys had purposefully struck minority jurors from the panel because of race. While Slager's attorneys were able to prove that they had valid reasons for composing the mostly-white jury, it seems like an egregious imbalance in representation.
"Prosecutors charged Slager with murder," Reuters reported, "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."
"The trial hinges on whether the jury believes Slager, who is white, could reasonably think he was in life-threatening danger during his interaction with Scott," said Mark Abadi for Business Insider. "Slager testified that Scott, after fleeing a routine traffic stop, had wrestled Slager's Taser away from him and lunged at the officer."
It seems incredible, watching the graphic and disturbing video of Scott's death at the hands of Slager, that anyone could claim Slager's actions were done in self defense. The video clearly shows Scott fleeing as Slager guns him down from a significant distance.
Newman urged the jurors to make a decision twice on Dec. 2, saying, "You have a duty to make every reasonable effort to reach a unanimous verdict."
It seems very clear that race is playing a factor in this case and the delay of a unanimous decision.
Because of the delays, Newman has ruled to continue the trial next week. Whether the case is further delayed by a mistrial or results in an indictment immediately, we can only hope that Slager will be indicted as soon as possible for Scott's murder more than a year after his life was taken in a senseless, violent act.
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