The Michael Slager jury will continue to deliberate Monday morning despite saying Friday they could not reach a consensus in the police shooting trial featuring cellphone video that stunned the nation.
After the defense team had twice asked for a mistrial, the jury came back into the courtroom just before 5:30 p.m., and the foreman said jurors wanted further explanation of the law and that they wanted to continue deliberating.
Just after 6 p.m., they came back to say they they wanted to return Monday. They were “beat and need time,” the foreman said, and they’ll have questions for the judge Monday morning.
They were unusual developments in the much-watched case of Slager, the fired North Charleston policeman charged with murder in the shooting death of unarmed black motorist Walter Scott.
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The developments started earlier in the afternoon, when, after deliberating for about 14 hours over three days, jurors told the judge they were deadlocked. Newman instructed them to return to deliberations.
Newman also issued an Allen Charge, asking that the minority in the deliberations try again to see the majority’s point of view.
Just after 4 p.m., Newman called attorneys involved with the Slager case into the courtroom and said one juror had written him a note saying he or she could not in good conscience accept a guilty verdict.
The juror wrote that that position would not change.
Newman read another note, from the jury foreman, that said only one juror disagreed with the others.
Newman asked a clerk to get clarity from the jury foreman about whether the 12 were “hopelessly deadlocked,” since the foreperson had not said the words that usually trigger a mistrial once a jury says for a second time it is hung.
Slager, 35, testified he feared for his life when he shot 50-year-old Scott as Scott fled a traffic stop on foot.
During deliberations Thursday, jurors asked to review transcripts of Slager’s testimony as well as the testimony of Angela Peterson, the lead South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agent who investigated the shooting.
Newman told the jurors later Thursday he could not tell them how the heat of passion might differ from fear. The jury asked the question late Thursday but the judge said that’s an issue jurors must decide.
Slager was tried on the charge of murder. But Newman told the jury before they started discussions late Wednesday they could consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
To convict Slager of murder, the jury would have to be convinced he had malice toward Scott. A murder conviction would carry a penalty of 30 years to life. Under the law, manslaughter is a killing done in the heat of passion after someone is provoked. It carries a sentence of two to 30 years.
Scott ran from his car into a vacant lot after Slager pulled him over for a broken taillight. Slager testified he chased him down, but Scott refused to be subdued and tried to run away again.
During his closing argument Wednesday, defense attorney Andy Savage argued the brief video seen widely in the media and on the internet doesn’t tell the whole story of how Slager yelled at Scott to stop and fired his stun gun three times.
“This is about the felonious conduct Mr. Scott engaged in,” Savage argued. “Who attacks a policeman for a brake light? Who does that?”
The defense contends Slager fired his gun only because he feared for his life after Scott wrestled away the officer’s Taser.
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson urged jurors to ignore defense attempts to distract them from what they can see with their own eyes on the video. She also pulled up evidence photos showing Slager with his radio and earpiece still in place after the shooting.
“That is not the sign of a violent, throw-down, life-threatening fight,” she said.
She accused Slager of inventing a story about fighting for his life, and said his fellow officers at the scene “bought everything he said that day hook, line and sinker.”
“Our whole criminal justice system rides on the back of law enforcement. Because of that, they have to be held responsible when they mess up,” she concluded.
The Associated Press contributed.