Walter Scott shooting: single juror forces deadlock and pushes trial into fifth week

Jury asks to continue deliberations on Monday after juror indicates they are not willing to return guilty verdict for former police officer Michael Slager

The jury in the murder trial of former police officer Michael Slager, who shot and killed unarmed African American Walter Scott as he ran away, is at deadlock after a single juror indicated during dramatic scenes in court they were unwilling to find the 35-year-old guilty.

The jury, consisting of 11 white people and one black person, will now continue deliberations on Monday, drawing the monthlong trial in South Carolina into a fifth week. If their decision is not unanimous a mistrial will be declared, leaving prosecutors to decide whether to pursue a retrial.

The former North Charleston police officer has been charged with murder and manslaughter after shooting Scott, 50, five times from behind as he ran away with his back turned. The incident, which occurred in April 2015, was caught on video by a witness, propelling the case into the global spotlight.

The release footage has been cited by advocates as among the clearest evidence of the fatal consequences of racially biased policing in the US.

On Friday, after over 14 hours of deliberations, the jurys foreman indicated in a note to South Carolina judge Clifton Newman that they would not be able to reach a unanimous decision.

It is clear that jurors will not be able to come to consensus, the note read.

The jury then returned a second time in the afternoon indicating it was still deadlocked, with a unanimous decision hinging on just one juror.

During tense scenes in the courtroom, a note from that single juror was read aloud by Newman. Judge, I understand the position of the court, but I cannot with good conscience consider a guilty verdict, the juror wrote. I expect those who hold opposing views not to change their minds because they are good honest people.

In a subsequent note sent by the foreperson, it was stated that the juror wanted to leave as they were having issues.

Under South Carolina law a jury cannot be sent out to deliberate again after it has returned for a second time with no verdict, unless it requests further explanation of the law.

The jurys foreperson made that request to Newman. Slagers defense team have moved for a mistrial, while the state prosecution urged the judge to provide the jury with the explanation it requested.

After a brief recess, Newman indicated he would not declare a mistrial and requested a note from the jury asking precisely what explanation of the law was required.

At this stage of things, with the jury indicating a willingness and interest … it would be improper for the court to declare a mistrial, Newman said.

A foreperson for the jury then told the judge in a note that they [the jury] are beat and need some time. We will have our questions at the time.

The jurys request for explanation likely relates to an earlier application on Thursday made by the jury requesting clarification on the legal distinction between fear and passion, the potential difference between a claim of justifiable self-defense, which Slagers legal team have argued throughout, and a manslaughter conviction, which would find that Slager unlawfully killed Scott in the heat of passion.

Newman had declined to provide the jury guidance, telling them on Friday morning that it was solely for you to decide.

In response to the first declaration of deadlock, Newman called the jury back into the court room and urged them, under a so-called Allen charge, to continue deliberations and push for a decision.

It isnt always easy for two people to agree so when 12 people must agree it must be more difficult, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/02/walter-scott-shooting-trial-jury-michael-slager