CHARLESTON, S.C. - Jurors in the Michael Slager murder trial will resume deliberating the fate of the white former North Charleston police officer whose fatal shooting of a black motorist was captured on cellphone video.
Slager is charged in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott, who was shot five times in the back as he ran from a traffic stop in April of last year.
Although Slager was charged with murder, Circuit Judge Clifton Newman told the jury with 11 white members and one black member Wednesday that they could consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Jurors return to the Charleston County Courthouse on Thursday after they considered the case for about an hour Wednesday. The jury has heard testimony from 55 witnesses during a monthlong trial.
To convict Slager of murder, the jury would have to be convinced he had malice toward Scott. A murder conviction would carry a penalty of 30 years to life.
Under the law, manslaughter is a killing done in the heat of passion after someone is provoked. It carries a sentence of two to 30 years.
Scott ran from his car into a vacant lot after Slager pulled him over for a broken taillight. Slager testified that he chased him down, but Scott refused to be subdued and tried to run away again.
During his closing argument, defense attorney Andy Savage argued that the brief video seen widely in the media and on the internet doesn't tell the whole story of how Slager yelled at Scott to stop and fired his stun gun three times.
"This is about the felonious conduct Mr. Scott engaged in," Savage argued. "Who attacks a policeman for a brake light? Who does that?"
The defense contends that Slager only fired his gun because he feared for his life after Scott wrestled away the officer's Taser.
Wilson urged jurors to ignore defense attempts to distract them from what they can see with their own eyes on the video. She also pulled up evidence photos showing Slager with his radio and earpiece still in place after the shooting.
"That is not the sign of a violent, throw-down, life-threatening fight," she said.
She accused Slager of inventing a story about fighting for his life, and said his fellow officers at the scene "bought everything he said that day hook, line and sinker."
"Our whole criminal justice system rides on the back of law enforcement. Because of that, they have to be held responsible when they mess up," she concluded.
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