CHARLESTON, S.C. — The trial of Michael T. Slager, the police officer whose videotaped killing of an unarmed black man staggered a nation already embroiled in a debate about police misconduct and racial bias in law enforcement, ended in a mistrial on Monday.
Judge Clifton B. Newman’s decision to halt the proceedings came three days after jurors signaled that they were within one vote of returning a guilty verdict against Mr. Slager, who could have been convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Walter L. Scott. But on Monday, in a final note to Judge Newman, jurors said that “despite the best efforts of all members, we are unable to come to a unanimous decision.”
While eleven jurors backed convicting an officer for the shooting at one point, according to a note written by one of the jurors, a holdout juror said he felt he could not vote to convict the officer in “good conscience.”
Prosecutors swiftly announced they would re-try the case, which is a legal option after any jury deadlocks.
While the jury may have been close to a conviction, some experts say if a jury won’t convict an officer in the face of this video evidence, it seems virtually impossible to convict officers for anything done in the line of duty.
“It seems that juries are very reluctant to second guess on duty police officers in split second life or death decisions involving deadly force,” said Professor Stinson, who studies these cases.