An old legal maxim says justice delayed is justice denied.
In other words---denied when the opportunity for justice does not arrive in a timely way.
In the case of former police officer Michael Slager, there has been a delay after a Charleston jury’s inability this week to reach a unanimous decision.
It’s important to remember though, Judge Clifton Newman’s declaration of a mistrial does not remove from either side their day in court or a chance to prevail.
It’s just on hold---and a reminder that as Americans, we’re blessed with a brilliantly conceived criminal justice system.
One that allowed prosecutors to present a detailed picture of their findings to the jury.
One that let defense attorneys urge members to consider what it would be like to be in Slager’s shoes and have to make the split-second decisions he made.
Many who saw the shocking video of Slager shooting Walter Scott believe it shows the murder of an unarmed man who was running away and no threat to Slager or anyone else’s safety.
The landmark 1985 Supreme Court ruling in Tennessee v. Garner does say police cannot justify shooting someone just to prevent escape—only when the suspect poses a threat of death or serious harm to the officer or innocent bystanders.
But maybe, as Slager’s defense argues, there was more leading up to the shooting not caught on camera.
That issue and many others will be revisited when the case returns to court and a different jury, probably next year.
We now know the first jury was deeply split.
Studies including a new one released this year by Bowling Green State University researchers show it’s still extremely rare for police to be charged in fatal shootings and even more rare for them to be convicted.
The delay is understandably difficult for Scott’s survivors as well as Slager and his family.
And it is an added burden on our court system.
Attorneys on both sides--those families--and anyone anxious to see justice done must accept that it will come eventually.
But it’s going to take a while.
That’s my take, what’s yours?
Copyright 2016 WIS. All rights reserved.