CHARLESTON, USA – The judge in the murder trial of a white former South Carolina policeman accused of shooting an unarmed black suspect in the back sent the jury back for more deliberations Friday, December 2, after they said they could not reach a consensus.
Michael Slager – who is facing murder and voluntary manslaughter charges – stands accused of shooting and killing motorist Walter Scott after Scott fled a traffic stop and struggled with the officer on April 4, 2015, in North Charleston.
Slager's lawyers argue that Scott's disregard for authority, aberrant behavior and aggressive actions justified the deadly encounter.
"It isn't always easy for two people to agree," said Judge Clifton Newman as he instructed the jury to try again. "So when 12 people must agree, it becomes even more difficult."
The case is one of several fatal shootings of black suspects across the United States that have thrown the spotlight on how police use deadly force – and whether a suspect's race plays a role in that decision.
North Charleston, located just north of the historic port city of Charleston, has a history of strained race relations between the city's police department and large black community.
Much of the trial focused on a single piece of evidence: a bystander's video of the incident that captured a portion of the struggle, Scott's attempt to flee, and Slager firing 8 shots at the suspect, 5 of them hitting their mark.
The 34-year-old Slager has said he feared for his life when he tried to subdue the suspect, alleging that Scott grabbed his stun gun and charged at him.
Jurors began deliberations on Wednesday, November 30, after a month of testimony.
On Friday, they initially asked to rehear testimony from Feidin Santana, the lone eyewitness to the encounter between Slager and Scott and the man who made the video.
Santana had disputed Slager's account of the struggle, saying Scott never charged at him, and was only attempting to flee the policeman's grip.
But only 12 minutes later, the jurors said they did not need to review the testimony and that they could not reach a consensus. It appeared the jury had one holdout.
Newman made a plea for them to try harder, saying a mistrial would only mean a new trial with the same evidence, and a different panel of jurors.
"We will go through this whole process again," Newman warned, asking jurors: "Carefully consider and respect the opinions of each other and reevaluate your position."
If convicted of murder, Slager faces a sentence of 30 years to life imprisonment. The manslaughter charge carries a sentence of two to 30 years.
The jury was set to resume deliberations on Monday, December 5. – Rappler.com