CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Charleston attorney was in the courtroom Wednesday as the jury in the Michael Slager murder trial received its instructions and left to begin deliberations.
Slager, a former North Charleston police officer, shot and killed Walter Scott after Scott ran from a traffic stop in April of last year. Slager claims it was self-defense.
Attorney Mark Peper was in the courtroom Wednesday, watching in person what Lowcountry residents have been watching online, including a last-minute curveball when the judge allowed jurors to have the option to consider a conviction of voluntary manslaughter rather than murder.
"It's the same charge but it removes the intent," Peper said of the voluntary manslaughter charge. "So the manslaughter would be the heat of passion whether you're provoked or otherwise, that you didn't have any malice okay, but that you intended to go ahead and kill the person."
Peper says the amount of time a jury takes to deliberate has meaning.
"Typically a quick verdict is a guilty verdict," he said. "The longer it takes it's more likely to become a not guilty verdict."
But he says while the jury continues to deliberate, there's another option out there that a lot of people haven't thought about: a hung jury.
"It would not shock me if they then came back out and said judge we're sorry but we just can't come up with a unanimous decision one way or the other, at which point the judge is not going to have a choice but to declare a mistrial," Peper said. "It would not shock me at all, it would not shock me at all. Unanimous is awfully tough when you got twelve people in a room. It's tough to get 12 people to agree on what they want for lunch. Much less murder."
The jury began deliberating late Wednesday after three hours of closing arguments, but returned after slightly more than an hour requesting to go home for the night, a request judge Clifton Newman granted.
Jurors return to the jury room Thursday to continue deliberations.