A juror in the murder trial of Michael Slager, the former South Carolina police officer who fatally shot unarmed black motorist Walter Scott, said on Thursday that Slager had done nothing “malicious” in the killing.
The trial controversially ended in a mistrial on Monday after jurors were unable to agree on a verdict.
Dorsey Montgomery, the jury’s foreman, said the jury was focusing on a lesser manslaughter conviction for Slager rather than murder, which under South Carolina law requires “malice aforethought.”
“We had to come to find out that he didn’t do anything malicious,” Montgomery said on NBC’s “Today” show. “He had a brief disturbance in reason at that moment.”
Over the course of the monthlong trial, prosecutors repeatedly played a video, filmed by a bystander, of Slager shooting at Scott eight times as Scott ran away from the North Charleston patrolman. Slager, who is white, testified that before the bystander began filming, Scott had wrested away his Taser and lunged at Slager, putting the officer in “total fear” for his life.
Montgomery also dispelled speculation that the jury was locked in an 11-1 split, with one holdout refusing to convict Slager. Five of the jurors remained undecided by the time the mistrial was declared, Montgomery said.
Talk of an 11-1 split started on the third day of jury deliberation last week, when one juror wrote a note to Judge Clifton Newman saying he was unwilling to convict Slager. In a follow-up note, Montgomery wrote that “it’s just one juror that’s having the issues.”
Deliberation among the 12 jurors stretched over four days, but seemed destined to result in a mistrial on Friday after Montgomery reported the jury was “hopelessly deadlocked.”
Montgomery said he didn’t think race played a role in the stalemate that led to the mistrial declaration.
“I do believe some jurors may have had that in their mind, but the majority of them didn’t have anything in reference to race that may have played a factor in the decision,” he said.
The shooting raised questions nationwide about police violence against minorities. Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage, argued the media were trying to make Slager a scapegoat for other racially charged police killings across the country.
Montgomery was the only black member of the jury, and the only juror who said in the selection process that he had not heard of the case or seen the video of the shooting.
Slager is facing a maximum of life in prison if convicted of murder. State solicitors have vowed to retry him, although no date has been set for a future trial. Slager will also be tried in federal court.
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