Judge Rejects Hung Jury in Walter Scott Shooting Case, Orders Further Deliberation

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A South Carolina jury has failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the murder trial of Michael Slager, the former police officer accused of shooting an unarmed black man in North Charleston, South Carolina.

A judge has ordered the jury to continue deliberations, rejecting a hung jury result.

Slager shot Walter Scott, 50, five times in April 2015, while Scott was running away from him after a daytime traffic stop. Scott was approximately 20 feet from Slager when he was shot. A bystander recorded Slager shooting Scott with his phone and, once the video released, it drew immediate cries for the officer’s arrest. 

Feidin Santana, the bystander who recorded video of the incident, initially withheld the video out of fear of retaliation but came forward later after a police report contained lies refuted by the footage. 

Slager initially claimed that he’d fired on Scott out of fear for his life, alleging Scott had grabbed his Taser. Santana has stated Slager’s claim about the Taser is false. 

A police report also claimed that Slager attempted to resuscitate Scott with CPR; Santana’s video subsequently proved that was a lie. 

The 12 jurors—11 white and one black—heard testimony from 55 witnesses during the month-long trial. 

The cause of the jury’s hesitation was not immediately clear. 

If found guilty, Slager would receive one of two convictions: Murder or manslaughter. Murder requires that Scott had malice toward Scott, whereas manslaughter is considered a crime of passion, i.e., Scott’s reasoning was impaired somehow by his emotional state. 

According to CBS News, the jury on Thursday requested transcripts of witnesses who testified in court to examine “the difference between passion and fear.”

If convicted of murder, Scott will face between 30 years and life in prison. Manslaughter, a lesser crime, carries with it a sentence of two to 30 years in prison. 

Judge Clifton Newman, who presided over the trial, received a letter from the jury on Friday saying it was unable to reach a consensus. Newman chose not accept the jury’s decision, however, sending them back to deliberate on Friday afternoon. 

“It isn’t always easy for even two people to agree, so when 12 people must agree, it becomes even more difficult,” Newman said.

Jury’s that cannot reach a unanimous decision are said to be “hung.” In the case of a hung jury, a mistrial might be declared resulting in further negotiations between prosecutors and defense attorneys, and, potentially, a new trial.

Last fall, the family of Walter Scott received a $6.5 million settlement from the city of North Charleston.

Update 6pm CT, Dec. 2: After further deliberation, and no consensus, Judge Newman has ordered the jury to reconvene on Monday. The single holdout reportedly told Newman: “I still cannot, without a reasonable doubt, convict the defendant. At the same time, my heart does not want to have to tell the Scott family that the man who killed their son, brother and father is innocent. But with the choices, I cannot and will not change my mind.” Newman has received multiple notes from jury foreman as well. One read: “that juror needs to leave.”

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