Judge declares mistrial in Michael Slager trial
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - By Raymond Rivera and Patrick Phillips
The judge in the trial of the former North Charleston police officer charged with a motorist's shooting death declared a mistrial Monday after receiving a note from the jury indicating it remained deadlocked.
LIVE BLOG: Michael Slager trial
Michael Slager is charged in the April 4, 2015, shooting death of Walter Scott after a traffic stop.
The jury was told to decide whether Slager is guilty of either murder or voluntary manslaughter or not guilty on the basis of self-defense.
Shortly after 3:30 p.m. Monday, Judge Clifton Newman told attorneys he had received another note from the jury stating they were unable to come to a unanimous decision.
"I have a final note from the jury," Newman told attorneys Monday afternoon. "It says, 'We as the jury regret to inform the court that despite the best efforts of all members, we are unable to a unanimous decision in the case of The State v. Michael Slager.'"
Both prosecutor Scarlett Wilson and defense attorney Andy Savage spoke and thanked the jurors for their service.
Everyone seemed composed when the judge declared a mistrial, but when Wilson addressed the jury, some of the jurors started to tear up.
The families of Walter Scott and Michael Slager were also emotional after the judge had called a mistrial.
The jury heard from 55 witnesses over a five week period and deliberated for a record of more than 24 hours over four days.
In the end, the panel couldn't come to a unanimous verdict.
Michael Slager faces a Federal Civil Rights trial next year, and following that trial he's expected to be re-tried by the state in Scott's death after Wilson tries Dylann Roof in the Emanuel AME shooting.
The mistrial was called after Newman gave them revised instructions in answer to questions they posed Friday afternoon and rejected a motion from defense two and a half hours later to revise those instructions.
Newman said the jury questions on Friday involved the difference between murder and voluntary manslaughter, the definition of malice aforethought, the length of time malice must be considered to exist before a jury can conclude a defendant can be guilty of manslaughter and whether the same guidelines concerning self-defense apply to police officers and private citizens.
Newman recessed the court after a hearing in which he denied the defense motion for a retrial. The prosecution argued against a mistrial. Newman said one of the notes from the jury indicated the jury was "undecided," meaning they may not be deadlocked.
On the third day of deliberation Friday, the jury sent a note to Newman saying they were "beat" and wanted court to resume Monday at 9 a.m.
"We will have our questions at that time," the note read.
This was after three notes sent within a half-hour period suggested one juror could not agree with the rest.
The note sent from that juror reads as follows:
I understand the position of the court, but I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict. I respect the position of my fellow jurors, some of which oppose my position. I expect those who hold opposing views to change their minds because I see them as good, honest people, therefore I regret to say we may never reach an unanimous decision. As you stated, we must follow the instructions you have given us, and the law. We all struggle with the death of a man and with all that has been put before us. I still cannot, without a reasonable doubt convict the defendant. At the same time, my heart does not want to have to tell the Scott family that the man that killed their son, brother and father is innocent. But with the choices, I cannot and will not change my mind.
"It's just one juror that has the issues," a note from the foreman, the spokesperson for the jury, said.
"That juror needs to leave. He is having issues," read another note from the foreman.
Defense attorney Andy Savage requested the judge call a mistrial Friday, while Solicitor Scarlett Wilson urged the jury to continue their deliberations.
Judge Newman gave the jury what is known as an Allen Charge when the jury 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.