Most asked questions about the Michael Slager trial
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - With the murder trial for former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager ending in a mistrial on Monday, it has led to a number of questions from people on social media trying to figure out what it all means.
ABC News 4 journalists Lara Rolo and Sam Tyson, who covered the trial from opening statements to the deliberations, have some answers to the most repeated questions on social media.
Was Slager found not guilty? Was he sentenced to life in prison?
No. Judge Clifton Newman declared a mistrial after the jury came back and said they could not make a unanimous decision. As a result, he was not sentenced and he did not walk free.
Juries must reach their decision unanimously, and after weighing the evidence, the 12-member panel could not decide on Slager's guilt or innocence, so the mistrial was declared. That means it's almost like this trial did not happen. The murder charge still exists, Slager is still presumed innocent, and he will be tried again at a later date.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson will speak to as many jurors as will talk about the case and the deliberations to see what they found to be most effective, so that she can reassess the case and possibly change up the witnesses she called or spend more time focusing on some aspects of the case.
The defense team will do the same. That means the second trial, which has not been scheduled, will probably be much quicker. It will not use the same group of 12; a new jury will be selected and they will hear the case.
Is Slager out on bond?
Yes, the bail bondsman handling Slager's case has allowed him to maintain his bond agreement.
Traditionally, bondsmen have an agreement with defendants that they can remain free on bond until the start of the trial. Once they appear in trial, their bond is cleared and they are remanded back to the government. In Slager's case, the agreement was extended throughout the trial and was extended again after the mistrial was declared.
Why would a juror who could not convict be on a jury anyway?
This is in reference to a letter penned by one of the jurors, who said he could not "in good conscience" find Slager guilty and could not tell the Scott family he was innocent after two days of deliberations.
In this case, unable to convict does not mean unable to make a decision. It just means the juror could not find Slager guilty based on the charges provided the jury.
Can Slager be tried again for killing Walter Scott?
Yes, but only because there was a mistrial. If the jury had come back with a verdict, either guilty or not, he could not be charged for the same thing again. That's what's defined as double jeopardy.
Slager also faces charges in federal court on allegations he violated Scott's civil rights during the shooting. Those charges would still stand no matter what happened in state court, because they are different from the murder charge he faced there.
But he shot Scott eight times in the back?
Slager fired his gun eight times. The medical examiner found five shots hit Scott. But the issue that was presented in court is whether the first shot was justified. If it is, then the following shots are based on some readings of the fleeing-felon law and on the self-defense argument.
As defense attorney Andy Savage pointed out repeatedly during the trial, Slager, a police officer at the time, was trained to fire until the threat was eliminated. That means Scott had to be perceived as a threat.
There are many people who argue Scott was not a threat, because he was running away, but the defense pointed out Slager did not have the answer to several key questions as the chase and shooting happened. He didn't know if Scott was armed. He didn't know if Scott was calling for help and leading Slager to a place where he would be outnumbered. And he didn't know if the second man in Scott's car would decide to help his friend.
Well after the fact, it's clear none of those scenarios were true. But what the jury had to determine was whether those unknowns before the shooting were enough to create enough fear for Slager to have grave concern for his life.
What the defense did not argue in front of the jury was the inclusion of the fleeing-felon defense used by police officers, which justifies a shooting if it seems a fleeing suspect would be putting other people or the officer in serious danger by continuing to run.
What's next in this case?
Scott's family and Wilson have both said they are prepared to try the case again as soon as it can be scheduled.
However, Wilson and Savage are both heavily involved in the Emanuel AME Church shooting case, which starts in federal court on Wednesday. Wilson will then try the accused gunman Dylann Roof in state court on nine murder charges once the federal trial has concluded.
Savage is serving as a special counselor to the many victims' family members and survivors of the church shooting.
It's possible Slager's federal trial could be scheduled before the state re-trial can be added to the docket. Because he has the right to face his accuser, the two trials will not run concurrently.