- The Washington Times - Friday, December 2, 2016

Jurors considering a murder charge against a white South Carolina police officer who fatally shot a fleeing black man struggled to reach a unanimous verdict Friday in what many thought would be an open and shut case because of video recordings of the incident.

The jury will resume deliberations Monday after averting a mistrial - with a lone juror informing the judge that the person did not support a guilty verdict.

Former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott, who was killed after he was pulled over for a broken taillight and ran from his car. Video of the April 2015 shooting, taken by a bystander, shows Mr. Slager fire eight shots at Scott as he ran. The widely distributed footage ignited concerns across the nation about mistreatment of black citizens by police.

The jury — 11 whites and one black — had deliberated for about 14 hours over three days before sending Circuit Judge Clifton Newman an initial note indicating they could not agree on a verdict.

Judge Newman sent the jurors back to work, urging them not to give up on their firmly held beliefs but to discuss their opinions with an open mind.

“You have a duty to make every reasonable effort to reach a unanimous verdict,” Judge Newman said. “In doing so, you should consult with one another. Express your own views and listen to the opinions of your fellow jurors.”

But an hour later, the jury returned with one member writing “I still cannot without a reasonable doubt convict the defendant.”

“I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict,” the holdout juror wrote. “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 foreman asked for an explanation of the law and said the jury would like to continue deliberations. Judge Newman eventually sent the group home for the weekend.

While Mr. Slager was charged with first-degree murder, jurors could also consider a voluntary manslaughter conviction if they believe the former officer shot Scott in a heat of passion after a provocation rather than with a malicious intent. He could also be acquitted of all charges if the jurors believe Mr. Slager acted in self defense.

At the close of the long day in court, an attorney representing Scott’s family said they were not discouraged by the amount of time it was taking to reach a verdict.

“The justice is still coming. We will see it Monday. We still have faith,” said attorney L. Chris Stewart.

While the bystander footage of the shooting clearly shows Mr. Slager firing eight rounds at Scott, the defense team sought to focus on the encounter between the two men in the moments before the recording began.

Mr. Slager testified that as he chased Scott and told him to stop that he stunned him three times with his Taser.

While Scott was on the ground, Mr. Slager said the motorist grabbed the Taser and pointed it at him. Scott was unarmed, but the former officer said he was in “total fear” when he fired his service weapon.

Judge Newman said if this jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision he would declare a mistrial and the case would be heard by a new jury.

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