Jury deliberations to continue Monday morning in Michael Slager murder trial

Walter Scott (Source: Facebook)
Walter Scott (Source: Facebook)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Jury deliberations in the Michael Slager murder trial will continue Monday morning after the jury announced they were hopelessly deadlocked on Friday.

The jury sent a note to the judge saying they were "beat," did not want dinner and wanted to go home following their deliberations into the case of the former North Charleston police officer accused in the the April 4, 2015 shooting death of Walter Scott.

This was after the jury foreperson told the court that 11 jurors have agreed on a guilty verdict but one juror said they could not reach a guilty verdict.

The foreperson told the judge that they believe that they can reach a verdict and had asked for further explanation on a law which may help them reach a unanimous verdict.

Defense attorney Andy Savage requested the judge to call a mistrial when the court learned that the jury was deadlocked, while Solicitor Scarlett Wilson urged the jury to continue their deliberations.

Following Friday's deliberations, Walter Scott's brother and family attorneys spoke outside the Charleston County Courthouse.

"It's been a long day, it's been a tough day, but it's not over," said Anthony Scott, Walter Scott's brother.

"This is not us against Michael Slager. This is the world versus Michael Slager," said Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Walter Scott family.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson issued a statement that read, "We have faith in this system. The mills of justice grind slowly but they grind very fine."

The jury is expected to continue their deliberations Monday morning at 9 a.m.

Earlier in the day, Judge Clifton Newman called the jury into the courtroom after having a clerk of court speak to jurors about how deadlocked the jury was on whether to find Slager not guilty by reason of self-defense, guilty of voluntary manslaughter or guilty of murder in Scott's death.

The judge asked the jury to let him know which laws they felt they needed to have explained to reach a verdict after the jury foreman told the court they wished to continue deliberating.

Newman earlier had read two notes from the jury: one from a single juror who said it was impossible for him to agree with the other jurors on a guilty verdict and a follow-up letter that seemed to indicate that jury was a lone holdout to an otherwise-unanimous decision.

Newman then sent a court clerk to speak with the jury to determine if they were hopelessly deadlocked while he conferred with the attorneys.

Newman gave the jury what is known as an Allen Charge when it first reported it was deadlocked Friday afternoon. An Allen charge is an instruction given to a deadlocked jury to encourage jurors to consider the point of view of their fellow jurors to reach an agreement under continued deliberations.

It was about 17 hours when the jury announced they could not agree on a verdict. Some jurors look frustrated when they returned to court while other were expressionless.

The jury had passed the judge two notes after lunch. The first was a request for transcript testimony from Feidin Santana, the man who recorded cell phone video of Scott being shot by Slager.

But not fifteen minutes later, the jury sent a note saying they couldn't agree.

The jury told the judge hearing more testimony would not help.

"If you don't come to unanimous decision, I will have to declare a mistrial," said Newman who also reiterated that the jury has a duty to deliver a verdict.

Newman also told jurors to re-evaluate their opinions, but not to sway for the sake of agreeing only

The judge said he would retry the case with a different jury if a mistrial was called.

Jurors request clarification on 'passion' and 'fear'

The morning began with the judge sending jurors back to deliberate without an answer to a question they asked the night before about the difference between "passion" and "fear."

Before calling the jury in, Newman discussed the possibility of providing definitions to jurors, explaining he was loath to do so because it could require the court to have to explain from the beginning the charges the jury has already received. Newman also expressed concern that the court should not be in a position of possibly providing what could be interpreted as a personal opinion about the facts the jury has heard.

Newman, after greeting jurors as they entered the courtroom, told them they had already received all of the evidence and the instructions 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's team has maintained throughout the trial that Slager and Scott wound up in a scuffle during which Scott grabbed the officer's Taser and pointed it at him, forcing Slager to use deadly force.

Testimony transcripts requested by jury 

The jury also asked on Thursday for transcripts of testimony from Michael Slager and State Law Enforcement Division agent Angela Peterson.

Earlier Thursday, Slager's defense team filed a motion requesting a probation report and to delay any sentencing if their client was found guilty.

The motion requests that Slager's sentencing, if he were to be convicted, be delayed until the probation office has the opportunity to investigate Slager's background and make a report to the court.

The defense team says such a report - which might include factors like Slager's criminal record, social history, and present condition - would "greatly assist this court in imposing sentence."

"It would give the court certain details of the defendant's life, background, upbringing, mental state, physical condition, and other factors that this court should consider in sentencing," the motion states.

It is not clear from the motion how long it would take for the probation office to prepare such a report.

News of the filing came shortly after the jury, which is in its first full day of deliberations, requested transcripts of testimony of Slager and from the lead South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agent who investigated the case.

The judge informed attorneys that the jury was requesting copies of the testimony from Slager and Angela Peterson, the lead SLED agent in the case. After a brief hearing, the judge granted the request, instructing the court reporter to prepare transcripts for the jury.

Michael Slager takes the stand 

Slager took the stand towards the end of the defense case, saying the shooting destroyed two families: Scott's and his own.

Slager told the court he was going to give Scott a warning for a broken tail light when Scott fled the scene. Slager testified that after Scott ran, Slager fired his Taser several times. He said at some point, both of them wound up on the ground.

Slager said he tried to handcuff Scott but couldn't, and that Scott rolled over on his back and used the Taser on Slager.

After Slager called for backup, he said Scott ripped the Taser from his hands. He said both he and Scott stood up and that he saw the barrel of the Taser coming at him.

"And he takes the Taser out of my hand with such force, it comes out of my hand, and then I see him with the Taser in his hand and I see him spin it around," Slager said. "That's the only thing I see is that Taser coming at me, I see that barrel, it's like this big, coming at me and I knew I was in trouble, I knew I had to call backup, I needed back up, I knew I was being overpowered."

Slager said during the struggle he realized Scott was much stronger than he was. Slager, choking back tears, says he felt "total fear" when Scott pointed the weapon at him.

Slager said he tried to get Scott to listen to his commands several times before the struggle and the shooting. Slager said he handcuffed Scott after the shooting because Slager didn't know if he hit Scott or if Scott tripped.

When asked by defense attorney Andy Savage if he planted evidence by dropping the Taser next to Scott's body, Slager said no.

Slager appeared to hold back tears when he told the court his son was born while he was in jail for the shooting. His defense attorneys questioned him about prior foot chases and arrests, noting that Slager had never been reprimanded for use of force before the incident.

Slager testified he has not been the same since the shooting and said his mind was like spaghetti from running and chasing after Scott.

"I was happy April 4th because Easter was the next day and I had off for a few days," Slager said. "Spent time with my family, and... after April 4 it's been a roller coaster can't sleep nightmares. My family has been destroyed by this,  the Scott family has been destroyed by this, it's horrible."

Prosecutors accused Slager of changing his story about the chase. During cross-examination, prosecutors again showed the cellphone video and asked Slager if it didn't show the Taser on the ground just before the shooting. Slager replied that at the time of the shooting he would have said the weapon was not on the ground, but that looking at the video can see that it was.

When asked about the video, Slager says he doesn't remember certain things, because it all happened so quickly.

Peterson testified for the prosecution, stating it was part of her strategy not to mention the cell phone videos depicting the shooting during her first interview with Slager.

Slager's attorney, Andy Savage, accused her of purposely withholding knowledge of videos of the shooting from his client. Peterson said when she learned the two videos would be made public, she then showed Slager the footage.

Jurors did not stop for lunch on first full day of deliberations

A spokesperson for the court said food was delivered to the jury room where jurors worked straight through without taking a break.

Jurors are trying to agree on one of three options for a verdict: they can find Slager not guilty because of self-defense, or they can convict him of murder or an alternate charge of voluntary manslaughter.

If convicted of murder, Slager faces 30 years to life in prison, but a conviction of voluntary manslaughter carries a sentence of between two and 30 years.

There has been no indication how close jurors are to an agreement or how soon a verdict might be reached.

The jury of 12 began deliberating after closing arguments late Wednesday afternoon, but after a little more than an hour, they came back to the judge to ask to go home for the night.

Closing arguments in the case lasted for more than three hours, and the day began with jurors visiting the scene of the shooting.

Slager has maintained that Scott ran from a traffic stop and that the two wound up in a scuffle during which Scott grabbed Slager's Taser, forcing Slager to fatally shoot Scott.

Wednesday night, Charleston attorney Mark Peper said the amount of time a jury takes to come to a verdict has meaning.

"Typically a quick verdict is a guilty verdict," Peper said. "The longer it takes it's more likely to become a not guilty verdict."

Peper said he would not be shocked if the jury returned to the judge saying its members could not agree on a verdict, which would cause a mistrial.

"Unanimous is awfully tough when you got twelve people in a room," Peper said.

After the jury deliberations began Wednesday night, Scott's family told reporters they believe justice will be served and that Slager will be found guilty.

"It's been a long hard five weeks, and we just continually believe in God and ask for continuous prayer of the city, the state and the country, and we do believe that we will get the guilty verdict and that we will receive justice for my brother," Anthony Scott said.

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