Judge Declares Mistrial in Michael Slager Murder Trial

Slager was a South Carolina police officer at the time of the shooting.

ByABC News
December 5, 2016, 5:55 PM

— -- A mistrial was declared today in the state murder trial of former North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager, who was accused in the shooting death of an unarmed black man.

The jury members said they were unable to come to unanimous decision. They had deliberated since closing arguments ended last Wednesday.

Slager, who is white, was accused of killing Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, at a traffic stop on April 4, 2015, in North Charleston while Slager was an officer with the city's police department. Video that surfaced shortly after the encounter appears to show the moment Slager fatally shot Scott as he ran away. The video garnered national attention, propelling Slager into the spotlight. He was fired from the force after the shooting, according to The Associated Press.

Scott's mother, Judy Scott, said at a news conference after the mistrial was announced that she isn't sad about the mistrial "because Jesus is on the inside. And I know that justice will be served, because the God that I serve, he's able. He told me to wait on the Lord and be of good courage, and God, he is strengthening my heart. God is my strength, and I know without a doubt that he is a just God and injustice will not prevail."

Scott family attorney L. Chris Stewart said at the news conference, "If you thought that we were going to come out here crying or weeping or weak, you don't know the Scott family, who've become my family."

He added that Slager "dodged it by a hair, and he's not dodging it again."

"The fight isn't over," Stewart said. "That was Round 1."

He said the solicitor will try the case again and the Department of Justice will also be trying the case.

Slager "delayed justice," Stewart said. "He did not escape it."

Another family attorney, Justin Bamberg, said, "Justice will be had" in the end.

"Thanks to Feidin Santana [who recorded the video], we've seen the light, and there is no way at the end of the day that former Officer Michael Slager can escape what's coming to him," Bamberg said.

Walter Scott's brother, Anthony Scott, urged for peaceful protests, adding that his family has had to "live with" the video "being played over and over again."

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said in a statement, "We will try Michael Slager again. We hope the federal and state courts will coordinate efforts regarding any future trial dates, but we stand ready whenever the court calls."

She added, "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 addressed the Scott family in her statement, saying, "My thoughts and prayers are with the Scott family. We are grateful for their patience, understanding and cooperation with us. They have not received the credit they deserve in their calm leadership for the community. The Scotts have been a sterling example of dignity and grace in extraordinary circumstances. This is a very difficult time for them, but I have no doubt that they will continue to support our efforts to find justice for this case. I have no doubt that they will continue to show their faith in the criminal justice system."

She also thanked the Scott family in court after the mistrial was announced.

"When I finished up closing arguments," she said, "and I walked over to give hugs, poppa Scott, the patriarch of the family, said to me, 'You'll always be my daughter.'"

Defense attorney Andy Savage directly addressed the jury in court as well.

"This is not a case about an individual or family," he said, adding the case is about "the state of South Carolina," not Walter Scott. "That's not to diminish Mr. Scott."

"The rule of law has to be preserved in this country, and you have done that," Savage said to the jury. "Thank you."

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said in a statement after the mistrial, "It is my understanding that there will be, as quickly as possible, a new trial where the Scott family and all of South Carolina will hopefully receive the closure that a verdict brings. Justice is not always immediate, but we must all have faith that it will be served. I certainly do."

Haley said she urges all South Carolinians "to continue along the path we have walked these last two years — a path of grace, faith, love and understanding. That is who we are and who I know we will continue to be."

Slager pleaded not guilty to murder. But as the trial concluded last week, the jury was allowed to consider a voluntary manslaughter charge. The voluntary manslaughter charge was requested by the prosecution, and the judge allowed it, based on testimony given during the trial.

Slager also faces a federal trial, which is scheduled for next year.

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