CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Deliberations continue in the trial of Michael Slager, a fired South Carolina patrolman charged with murder in the shooting of an unarmed black motorist. Walter Scott was shot five times in the back fleeing a traffic stop in April of last year. A look at the trial:
Scott was shot on April 4, 2015 after Slager pulled him over for a broken third taillight on a 1990 Mercedes. Scott ran down a road and into a vacant lot where the shooting occurred as Scott ran from the officer. Jurors visited the scene Wednesday before closing arguments.
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The defense focused its case on the seconds before the fatal shots and which were not recorded on the video. Slager testified that he chased after Scott, told him to stop and stunned him three times with his Taser. The 35-year-old Slager testified that even after Scott was on the ground, the motorist grabbed his stun gun and pointed it at him. The former officer testified he was in “total fear” when he shot. Scott was unarmed, but Slager didn’t know that at the time.
The cellphone video taken by Feidin Santana, a barber walking to work, shows Slager shooting eight times and evidence shows the 50-year-old Scott was struck five times. The video was shown widely by the media and across the internet. After the video surfaced, Slager was fired and charged with murder. The jurors saw the video a number of times, sometimes frame-by-frame.
A jury of 11 whites and one black is hearing the case and has deliberated more than nine hours. Deliberations resume Friday. While considering the evidence, jurors have asked for transcripts of Slager’s testimony and that of a key state witness. They also asked the judge about the legal difference between passion and fear. The judge has said the jury can consider returning a verdict of voluntary homicide which is killing someone in the heat of passion.
If convicted of murder, Slager could be sentenced to 30 years to life. A murder conviction requires the state to show Slager acted with malice, and prosecutors contend shooting a man in the back does so. Voluntary manslaughter carries a penalty of two to 30 years in prison. Even as the jury deliberated, Slager’s attorneys asked the judge to delay sentencing if he is convicted. They want a probation report to be compiled first. Generally in South Carolina sentencing comes immediately after a verdict is returned.