Prosecutors have vowed to re-try a South Carolina police officer for murder over the shooting death of an unarmed black motorist after a hung jury was announced.
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman declared the mistrial after a jury said Monday that it was unable to unanimously agree on a verdict for Michael Slager – the police officer who shot Walter Scott dead.
Slager was standing trial for shooting dead 50-year-old Scott in North Charleston after stopping him for having a broken taillight in April 2015.
Following news of the mistrial, solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she planned to retry Slager as soon as possible.
‘While I cannot overstate our disappointment that this case was not resolved, I commend those who sacrificed so much time, energy and effort to serve on this jury,’ Wilson said in a statement.
‘We will try Michael Slager again.’
Scott’s mother Judy said outside court that she knows justice will be served.
‘God is my strength and I know without a doubt that he is a just God and injustice will not prevail,’ she said.
‘I don’t care how it looks, it’s not over – you all hear me – it’s not over, until God says it’s over.’
The jury had been deliberating for about 22 hours over four days before the mistrial was announced on Monday.
The judge had told jurors they could also consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Scott’s murder in April 2015 was captured on a cellphone video taken by a bystander, which showed him being shot in the back.
The footage, which was widely shown in the media and online, shocked the country.
After the video went public, Slager was fired by the police department and charged with murder. Scott’s family called for peace in the North Charleston community.
Their calls for calm are believed to have helped prevent the kind of violence that erupted elsewhere when black men were killed in encounters with law enforcement.
The video in the Scott slaying renewed debate over how blacks are treated by white law officers. There have been similar debates over race and policing in places from New York to Ferguson, Missouri and from Tulsa, Oklahoma to North Carolina.
Race was never made a major issue at trial, even though Slager is white and Scott was black.
On Friday, it appeared that the stalemate involved only one juror. But a Monday note said that a majority of the jurors on the panel of 11 whites and one black were still undecided.
The jury told Circuit Judge Clifton Newman on two separate occasions on Friday they were deadlocked but then the jury foreman said he thought the jurors could reach a verdict.
The jury of 11 whites and one black needed to reach a unanimous verdict.
Scott was pulled over in North Charleston for having a broken taillight on his 1990 Mercedes and then fled the car, running into a vacant lot.
Family members have said he may have run because he was worried about going to jail because he was $18,000 behind on child support.
The prosecution argued that 35-year-old Slager let his sense of authority get the better of him.
The defense maintained that the two men wrestled on the ground, that Scott got control of Slager’s stun gun and then pointed the weapon at the 35-year-old officer before the shooting.
The defense also contended there was no way the officer could tell if Scott was armed.
Much of the testimony at the trial centered on the cellphone video, which at times was blurry and shaky. The jurors saw the video numerous times, including several times frame by frame.
Last year, the city of North Charleston reached a $6.5 million civil settlement with Scott’s family. In the wake of the shooting, the city also asked that the U.S. Justice Department conduct a review of its police department policies with an eye toward how the department can improve its relationship with residents.
Slager also faces trial next year in federal court on charges of depriving Scott of his civil rights.
It’s the second time in recent weeks a jury has deadlocked in an officer-involved shooting. A mistrial was declared November 12 when a jury in Cincinnati couldn’t reach a verdict in the case of a former campus police officer who was also charged with shooting a black motorist.