Judge presses for verdict in Michael Slager trial as jury deadlocked

Judge presses for verdict in Michael Slager trial as jury deadlocked

CHARLESTON, SC (WIS) - The jury in the case of a former North Charleston Police Department officer accused of shooting an unarmed man during a traffic stop has been unable to reach a verdict, but the judge is pressing them to keep working.

Jurors returned to the court Friday around 1:15 p.m. and told the judge they were unable to reach a consensus in the case of Michael Slager.

The judge in the case then offered an Allen charge for the jury, sending them back to the deliberation room to try again to reach a verdict.

Judge Clifton Newman told jurors they had already received everything they needed and said they would have to rely on their own common sense to decide whether Slager is guilty of either murder or voluntary manslaughter or not guilty on the basis of self-defense.

Slager was charged in the April 4, 2015 shooting of Walter Scott who Slager pulled over for a broken taillight at an auto parts store parking lot in North Charleston.

The incident spiraled out of control after Scott got out of his car and fled the scene on foot. Slager pursued Scott to an area a few blocks where investigators believe an altercation took place between the two.

Police said Slager fired his stun gun on Scott, but that did not stop him from fleeing. At that point, according to investigators, Slager removed his police-issued gun from its holster and opened fire on Scott.

Scott, according to a coroner's report, was struck five times despite Slager firing eight rounds.

Video of the incident was recorded by bystander Feidin Santana, who released the blockbuster video to the media just days after the shooting.

Slager was also immediately fired by the North Charleston Police Department and charged with murder on April 7. He was indicted by the state Grand Jury on that charge three months later.

The five-week trial began with jury selection on Oct. 31 as Slager's defense team and state prosecutors worked to whittle down an 188-person jury pool to 12 jurors and 6 alternates.

The defense and prosecutors called witnesses across the spectrum. From fellow officers discussing use of force to Feidin Santana's eyewitness account of the incident, all described the incident in detail.

But Slager himself was called to the stand to defend his actions. Slager was given the opportunity to tell the jurors what happened from his perspective on that Saturday morning. He recalled that the entire incident and the seconds after it reduced his mind to "like spaghetti."

On Nov. 30, the defense and state prosecutors gave their closing arguments. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Slager clearly had an issue with Scott.

"Our whole criminal justice system rides on the back of law enforcement," Wilson said. "It's not just the weight of the duty belt, it's not just the vest. They have the weight of our nation on their backs. There is nobody more grateful for that than I am. But because of that, they have to be held responsible when they mess up."

Attorney Andy Savage gave his closing argument earlier and asked jurors to find Slager not guilty in Scott's murder.

Savage rejected the prosecution's suggestion that Scott fled the traffic stop Slager initiated out of fear of going to jail because he owed back child support.

Savage also accused the media of misleading the public.

"You hear the media say 'unarmed man shot in the back.' Did Slager have a chance to pat [Scott] down to see if he had a weapon?" Savage said. He also brought up the shooting video and criticized Santana for not immediately handing the video over to law enforcement officials.

The jury was also given the opportunity to visit the crime scene. But after weeks of testimony, the jury was finally given the case on Nov. 30.

Slager, meanwhile, also faces federal charges of violating Scott's civil rights. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

Copyright 2016 WIS. All rights reserved.