Grace Beahm/Post and Courier
Jurors have yet to decide the fate of Michael Slager
Entering the 14th hour of deliberations, the jury in the trial of Michael Slager were called back into deliberations after informing the judge that they were deadlocked. The former North Charleston officer charged with the shooting death of Walter Scott looked on, expressionless, as Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman informed the jurors that they have a duty to do everything in their power to decide upon a unanimous verdict regarding Slager’s guilt or innocence.
Returning to the courtroom Friday afternoon, Slager sat at the defense table alone staring straight ahead as he awaited any word from the jury. The night before, the jurors had requested definitions from Judge Newman regarding “passion” and “fear” — two terms that appear in the charge orders the jury was given before they began deliberations. Passion is a key consideration for the jury as they contemplate the possibility of a voluntary manslaughter charge for the former officer. According to the instructions received by the jury, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant took Scott’s life in a sudden heat of passion. Meanwhile, the jury must also decide if Slager acted in self-defense when he killed Scott, fearing for his life.
Slager faces a charge for murder, and if found guilty would spend 30 years to life in prison. The jury is also considering a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which carries with it a prison sentence of two to 30 years.
The jury notified the judge of their indecision 12 minutes after requesting a transcript of the testimony provided by Feidin Santana, the eyewitness who recorded cellphone footage of Scott’s shooting. Santana watched from the courtroom as the jury then informed the judge that revisiting his testimony would do nothing to help them arrive at a clear verdict.
Before sending the jury back into deliberations, Judge Newman asked the jurors to consider each others opinions but remain firm in their beliefs. He also reminded the jury that he would be required to declare a mistrial should they fail to arrive at a verdict. That means the possibility of retrying the case with a new jury, tasked with examining the same evidence and potentially reaching a decision.