Walter Scott's family, Lowcountry leaders react to Michael Slager sentencing

Walter Scott's family speaks following Michael Slager sentencing hearing
Updated: Dec. 7, 2017 at 5:30 PM EST
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Walter Scott's family speaks to the media after the sentence came down Thursday (Source: Harve...
Walter Scott's family speaks to the media after the sentence came down Thursday (Source: Harve Jacobs/Live 5 News)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Minutes after the 20-year prison sentence for North Charleston police officer Michael Slager was handed down, reaction came pouring in locally and from around the country.

"I want the world to know that the Scott family is pleased," Walter Scott's brother, Rodney, said. "We got justice."

Slager's sentencing hearing lasted four days with the sentence coming down just after 12 p.m.  

"This is the day that the lord has made and I am rejoicing in it," Scott's mother said while holding a photo of her son.

Slager's family also spoke in court Thursday and and his wife Karen Sharpe was reduced to tears. The sentence ends a long journey for both sides. It came from Judge David Norton over two and a half years after the shooting.

"We feel like we have gotten justice today," Scott's brother Anthony said. "Our family has changed in a way that we will never be the same again.
We thank Charleston and the United States for keeping peace. We maybe didn't get the time that we thought might be suitable, but we got time."

The crucial piece of evidence in the case was a cell phone video that was recorded by Feidin Santana. He testified during the sentencing hearing on Monday.

"It's not a victory because I don't feel happy that another human being had to go through," he said. "I believe that sometimes sacrifices have to happen in order to make changes and this is a big example."

Both Rodney and Anthony Scott as well as their mother said they forgave Slager for what he did.

Ninth circuit solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson, who prosecuted Slager's mistrial in 2016, also had reaction.

"This is an important day for our community," she said. "While it was sad and shocking to see a police officer wrongly kill another person, it is meaningful that Michael Slager has admitted that what he did was wrong and admitting that he knew it was wrong. Michael Slager has admitted that killing Walter Scott was not justified. There should beno further debate of Slager's guilt."

Slager's case also drew national attention from groups such as the NCAAP. Slager was found guilty of the charge of violating Scott's civil rights under the color of the law, which included the underlying choice of deciding to sentence Slager along the guidelines of second degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.

"Officers rarely receive any prison sentence at all for their crimes, and while Officer Slager is receiving what some may see as a strong sentence, we know that no punishment can repair the hole left in the lives of his loved ones," Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a statement.   "The fact is that Walter Scott should be alive today."

Political figures locally and on a national level also weighed in when the sentence was announced.

"What I've taking away after four days of being down here is that in South Carolina, we have work to do," South Carolina state rep. Wendell Gilliard said. "If we don't participate in edcuation and the betterment of our society, then we're all guilty. That's the lesson I'm taking away from here today."

From shooting to sentencing Thursday, the case spanned three different U.S. Attorneys General and two U.S. presidents.

"Those who enforce our laws must also abide by them—and this Department of Justice will hold accountable anyone who violates the civil rights of our fellow Americans," current U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "On behalf of the Department of Justice, I want to offer my condolences to the Scott family and loved ones."

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