Mistrial, Missed Justice – One Juror Blocks Conviction Of White Cop Who Shot Fleeing Black Man In The Back
Shock, sadness and disbelief; some of the words used to described Monday afternoon’s verdict in Charleston, South Carolina where former police officer Michael Slager walked away scott free for the murder of Walter Scott. The twelve person jury, consisting of eleven white people and one black person, were unable to reach a unanimous agreement on the charges against Slager and, as a result, the case ended in a mistrial.
The murder of Walter Scott in April 2015 sent shockwaves across the US and beyond for its sheer brutality and mallice. The senselessness of the crime also further entrenched the division between the African American community in southern states in the US and an increasingly volatile police force. The video which emerged days after the incident shows distressing images of Walter Scott being shot in the back by Michael Slager. These images proved crucial in raising awareness of the attack and it was also heavily deployed by the prosecution team throughout this trial.
Speaking before the verdict was announced, lead prosecutor Scarlett Wilson praised the jury for their immense civic duty and Scott’s parents for being beacons of hope to their community, before critiquing the unnecessary force demonstrated by the Charleston police department. In her closing statement Wilson reminded the jury that:
“The badge is supposed to be a shield not a sword.”
Unfortunately, Wilson’s plea was in vain as Slager got off scott free. Monday’s mistrial verdict is not a once off. Rather, it is part of a wider and growing trend of discrimniation and injustice against the African American community in cities across the US. This is inturn, exacerbating the fear, hostility and anger that rightfully exists among large numbers of African Americans. The decision not to find Michael Slager guilty emphasises the judicial flaws and racial undertones at play. It also points to an underlying current of double-standards and hypocrisy that is impacting acutely on the most marginalized members of society.
The sense of injustice felt by the African American community was eloquetly articuated by Deray McKesson, a civil rights activist and founding member of the Black Lives Matter movement. McKesson took to Twitter to express his anger and dismay at Slager getting off scott free.
The police are another facet of organized crime. & I say that without hyperbole. We literally watched Slager kill #WalterScott.
— deray mckesson (@deray) December 5, 2016
If real change is to occur in the US then a frank and open discussion needs to take place across all strands of society about race relations, power and justice. The problem is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for a fair and balanced dialogue to take place when malicious attacks like Slager’s go unpunished.
Slager image via Charleston Country Detention Center/Getty Images, Shooting image via Youtube.
Photo Credit: Charleston County Detention Center via Getty Images