A judge declared a mistrial on Monday (5 December) in the case of former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager, who shot dead Walter Scott, after the jury said it could not come to a unanimous decision. Judge Clifton Newman said the case would be retried at a future date.
"We, as the jury, regret to inform the court that, despite the best efforts of all members, we are unable to come to an unanimous decision in the case of the State vs. Michael Slager," a letter from the jury's foreperson said.
According to NPR, the jury had three options in order to avoid a mistrial: a guilty verdict for murder; guilty of voluntary manslaughter; or an acquittal. Jurors deliberated for roughly 22 hours over four days.
The jury, consisting of 11 white people and one black man, appeared on the verge of deadlock on Friday (2 December) when a juror sent the judge a note saying they could not agree on a guilty verdict. "I understand the position of the court, but I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict ... I expect those who hold opposing views will not change those views," the juror wrote.
"We all struggle with the death of a man and with all that has been put before us," the juror continued. "I still cannot, without a reasonable doubt, convict the defendant. At the same time my heart does not want to tell the Scott family that the man that killed their son, brother and father is innocent. But with the choices, I cannot and will not change my mind."
Slager is accused of murder after shooting Scott several times in the back as the 50-year-old motorist fled from the officer in 2015. The shooting was caught on video by a bystander and quickly went viral, The Washington Post reported.
During his trial, Slager claimed he feared for his life during the encounter. "I was scared," he said during the trial, insisting he felt "total fear that Mr Scott was coming toward me". However, video of the incident showed Scott's back to Slager as the officer shot his weapon.
Slager also claimed that Scott had grabbed his Taser during a struggle between the two. According to the Washington Post, the former officer later said he did not realise the Taser had fallen behind him when he shot at Scott. He also said he did not know at the time that Scott was unarmed and running away. "But, after watching the video, yes," he admitted in court.
The new criminal trial's timing will depend on a federal civil rights case pending against him. Charleston County prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said in a statement that her office intends to retry Slager. "We will try Michael Slager again," she said. "We hope the federal and state courts will coordinate efforts regarding any future trial dates but we stand ready whenever the court calls."