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Mistrial Declared In Murder Trial of Former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager
12/7/2016 12:41:17 PM

Ex-North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager (center) is escorted from the courthouse by security during his murder trial at the Charleston County Courthouse December 5, 2016. Photo: Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
By Barney Blakeney

After hearing some 55 witnesses testify over the six-week long murder trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, the jury of 11 whites and one black man deliberated some 22 hours during four days and still failed to return a verdict. Slager, who is white, shot an unarmed Walter Scott who is black five times in the back as Scott ran from him. Slager will remain free on bond awaiting an as yet undated federal court trial or retrial of the state’s case.

After the April 4, 2015 incident Slager lied saying he shot Scott as they struggled for Slager’s taser. A video recording of the incident surfaced three days later showing Slager shoot Scott as Scott ran away. Until then North Charleston officials supported Slager’s version of the incident. After the video surfaced, Slager was charged with murder and fired.

Despite fielding a jury that included only one black member, many in the community held hope the weight of the video evidence would produce a guilty verdict. As the trial began its fourth week, Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott said, “I’m not optimistic that the community will be pleased with the outcome. Based on what we know about these types of killings, I hope with a tape that shows undisputed evidence this won’t be another Rodney King.” She referred to the 1991 taped police beating of King who was stopped after leading offices on a high speed chase. Scott said Slager’s trial is unprecedented. “But for the video of the incident, we’d never be at this place. Other similar incidents never even got to a trial. This kind of abuse has been ongoing for some time. We need to believe we will get a just verdict.”

Monday after the mistrial was declared Scott said, “I’m disappointed. Friday when we found out that one juror was holding out, that said there would not be a conviction. That the juror couldn’t vote for a conviction even with the video tells us how far we still have to go as a community.” The failure of the jury to return a conviction neither for murder nor manslaughter, its two options, sends the message to police officers any of their actions can be explained away, Scott said. “With this outcome, given the evidence, this is a sad commentary on our system,” she added.

North Charleston NAACP President Ed Bryant was blunter. “Everybody’s being apologetic, but the whole thing was a fiasco. The outcome was supposed to be based on the evidence. Well, the evidence was blatant. You gotta be psychotic, an idiot or a racist not to find Slager guilty. Apparently the juror who said he could not in good conscience vote for a conviction had his own agenda. The mistrial in the Slager case says we have a community that is racist and will not give justice to people of color,” Bryant said.

Black Live Matter Charleston leader Muhiyyidin D’baha said, “The criminal justice system rides on the back of law enforcement which must be held responsible when it messes up. If we don't hold people accountable when they mess up, it all falls apart. Things are falling apart. Focusing just on Michael Slager simplifies and distorts our concerns. It says we’re dealing with ‘one bad apple’. Throughout the trial we identified persistent cultural biases in the North Charleston Police Department.

“Whether Slager had justifiable reasons to shoot a man running away, whether he had malice in his mind, or whether fear or passion was present- all ignore the elephant in the room: the racism and implicit biases that affect one’s perception. But does that mean it’s reasonable? Did Slager have a problem with a black man being disobedient to his orders? Was that enough to create malice in his mind? Do those 11 white jurors who have been socialized into a society that has normalized ‘White Fear’ and ‘Black Criminality’ have some implicit biases also? Well it appears that at least one does. The Justice we desire is the genuine transformation of the structures that produce officers like Michael Slager.”

By press time Tuesday two community meetings were scheduled to respond to the Slager mistrial – 6 p.m. Dec. 6 at Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston to allow civil right leaders, faith and community leaders, lawyers and concerned citizens to discuss the next steps to seeking justice for Walter Scott and the Scott family and Dec. 8 Black Lives Matter Charleston asks people to assemble 5 p.m. prior to the North Charleston City council meeting! 

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: justin Submitted: 12/8/2016
Wow, the publisher of the newspaper shot that photo?

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