State, community leaders react to Michael Slager mistrial

Published: Dec. 5, 2016 at 10:26 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2016 at 10:29 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Elected leaders and community organizers have been reacting the news of a mistrial in the case of the former North Charleston police officer charged in the shooting death of a motorist.

Michael Slager faced a charge of murder or an alternate charge of voluntary manslaughter in the April 4, 2015, shooting death of Walter Scott. Judge Clifton Newman declared a mistrial when a jury told him Monday afternoon they could not come to an agreement on a verdict.

Gov. Nikki Haley said a new trial will be held as quickly as possible and she hopes Scott's family and all of South Carolina "will hopefully receive the closure that a verdict brings."

Haley said justice is not always immediate but urged everyone to have faith that justice will be served.

"I urge South Carolinians - in Charleston and across our state - to continue along the path we have walked these last two years: a path of grace, faith, love and understanding," Haley said in a statement. "That is who we are, and who I know we will continue to be."

U.S. Republican Sen. Tim Scott issued a statement on the mistrial:

This is a very delicate and vulnerable time for our South Carolina family. I can understand and sympathize with the frustration and heightened emotions that some folks are experiencing after today's decision was announced. But we must continue to have faith in our judicial system. There is going to be another trial in the state with a different jury and there is also a federal process that will serve as an additional check and balance. There is no question the lack of verdict has left many unanswered questions, but I ask we remain mindful of the process. I will continue to pray for peace and unity as we, as a community, cope with the aftermath of the decision.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said in a statement the journey to justice in the Slager case is "far from over:"

Like so many others in our community, I'm deeply disappointed by the jury's inability to reach a unanimous verdict in the trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager.

However, despite that disappointment, I also understand that justice is not always delivered by a single jury, in a single courtroom, on a single day. Justice is often a journey. And the journey to justice in the Michael Slager case is far from over.

Soon, Mr. Slager will face new trials at the federal and state levels. New juries will be given an opportunity to render a verdict on his actions. Until then, we will continue to pray for our community, for justice, for the family and friends of Walter Scott, and for all those whose lives have been touched by this terrible tragedy.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, whose office prosecuted the case, issued a statement praising the family of Scott and thanking jurors:

My thoughts and prayers are with the Scott family. We are grateful for their patience, understanding and cooperation with us. They have not received the credit they deserve in their calm leadership for the community. The Scotts have been a sterling example of dignity and grace in extraordinary circumstances. This is a very difficult time for them but I have no doubt that they will continue to support our efforts to find justice for this case. I have no doubt that they will continue to show their faith in the criminal justice system.

While I cannot overstate our disappointment that this case was not resolved, I commend those who sacrificed so much time, energy and effort to serve on this jury. We will try Michael Slager again. We hope the federal and state courts will coordinate efforts regarding any future trial dates but we stand ready whenever the court calls.

As a lawyer and prosecutor, I am subject to special rules limiting my ability to make public comments about pending cases and defendants in criminal matters. For these reasons, my office cannot comment on the merits of the case. By law, the defendant remains presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey issued a brief statement late Monday:

"In April 2015, Michael Slager was arrested and charged with murder. Since that time, the case has remained outside of the city's jurisdiction and within the judicial process. Until a final decision is rendered, the City of North Charleston and Mayor Summey will continue to refrain from commenting or discussing the case."  

Pastor Thomas Dixon, president of The Coalition, said he was disappointed by the outcome of the case.

"I'm quite disappointed in the process, I'm quite disappointed in a jury of peers that would look at physical evidence that clearly shows a murder that took place and at the end of the day they can't come to a unanimous decision that would bring a conviction, I would prefer, a conviction of murder, but at the very least a manslaughter conviction," Dixon said. He said what is even worse is that the mistrial continues to "prolong the agony" of the Scott family.

Dixon said he hoped no protests of the mistrial would involve violence but said he was unsure on community action.

"Everyone knows where I stand as far as me being a man of peace," Dixon said. "But somewhere along the way, the community has got to get a win. We can't keep having Ls in the loss column when it comes to prosecuting law enforcement officers. Sooner or later, what is it going to take for an officer for an officer to not only be tried but found guilty also sentenced to an extremely lengthy term in the state of South Carolina and across the nation. It has got to happen. I don't know what to say about how the community is going to react now. I would pray for peace, but other than that all I can say is I've done all I can."

Elder James Johnson, state director of the National Action Network said he was disappointed but not surprised by the deadlocked jury. Johnson said he expects there will be protests because of the mistrial, but said he thinks those protests will be peaceful. Johnson urged people to remain calm and let the system work itself out.

Scott's brother, Anthony, told reporters shortly after the mistrial was declared that anyone considering protesting should do so peacefully.

"We're not going to tear up this city, we're going to keep it just the way it is, and we're going to believe in peaceful protest," he said.

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