Justice Fails: Cop Who Shot Black Man in the Back Goes Free

We have an inherent faith in our justice system. We believe that the founders, and their subsequent successors have developed a court of law that redeems the innocently accused, and brings just punishment on the guilty.

To many across the nation, however, this is not the case. The justice system does not serve all, but rather the interests of few. A jury of their peers is not in fact made up of their peers.

Yesterday in South Carolina, a now-former police officer, Michael Slager had his trial ruled a mistrial on the basis that the jury was hung and unable to reach a verdict. For those of you who missed it, or don’t pay attention to officer-involved shootings against unarmed men, here’s what happened:

A police officer executing a man by shooting him five times in the back as a 50-year-old man slowly runs away from him.

That this was murder is not even a question. The degree of the charges were the only amount of uncertainty, and indeed, just three days after the shooting, Slager was charged with murder. Additionally, a grand jury indicted Slager on murder two months later.

This case is one of the swiftest to date after a litany of officer involved shootings to receive massive press coverage.

As most are aware, Officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown faced no charges. Officer Daniel Pantaleo in New York faced no charges for choking Eric Garner to death while on duty. Here, closer to home in Fairfax, after more than two years of delays and obstructions, Officer Adam Torres was charged with murder and pled guilty to manslaughter in the shooting death of John Greer. Encouragingly, the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile (which this author wrote in disgust about immediately after) was arrested and charged with manslaughter last month.

We’re seeing an increase in accountability for unwarranted police action through the courts and the rule of law, but more work is left to be done, as proven in the Slager case.

Despite a clear video of an execution, a jury of Walter Scott’s peers could not find Slager guilty.

In this instance, a 50-year-old man, Scott, who could have been caught and arrested, is targeted by Slager with eight bullets, five of them finding the fleeing man in the back.

Slager then retrieves his Taser to drop it next to Scott, which could be an attempt to implicating Scott. And even after handcuffing Scott, per procedure, neither Slager nor the second responding officer offered any medical attention to an unarmed man who had been pulled over for a broken tail-light.

In a world where everyone has a smartphone, we have a rare instance of definitive video proof of a police officer acting far beyond reasonable force and shooting a man in the back. Yet, somehow, even this wasn’t enough to secure a conviction of a police officer.

The only defense Slager could offer was that his reaction and use of force was what he was trained to do. He testified in his defense that he felt ‘total fear’, questioning why Scott would run from a traffic stop for a broken tail-light. After the stop, there ensued an altercation where Scott tried to prevent being stunned with a Taser, he then broke free and continued running, where Slager, rather than pursue an unarmed man, pulled his weapon and fired eight times in 2.7 seconds.

This case was so strange and runs counter to the normal narrative of conservatives who applaud and uphold truth and justice for police in virtually 100% of cases that even Sean Hannity couldn’t find a way to defend Slager:

Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday passionately defended Walter Scott, a black man gunned down apparently in cold blood by white North Charleston, S.C., police officer Michael Slager.

“You don’t shoot an innocent person that’s not a threat in the back—that’s murder,” Hannity said.

“We cannot have in this country—look, you talk about the officer is innocent until proven guilty, that tape is overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence that this man was shot innocently in the back,” Hannity continued. “He’s not the judge, jury and executioner here. He doesn’t get to fire against the guy that’s not a threat to anybody.”

The mistrial yesterday shows that we still have a long way to go in order to gain accountability and hold accountable those sworn to protect. Challenges will always remain, but for every bit of progress we make at a prosecution level, there remains progress to be had in the courtroom.

  • Stephen Spiker

    Thank you for reporting on this, DJ.

    This is absolutely an issue that conservatives should be paying attention to and championing.

    • notjohnsmosby

      What are you thoughts on the jury nullification not-guilty decisions in Oregon?

      • Stephen Spiker

        I don’t know if that was the case or not. At least one of the jurors said it wasn’t.

        I’ve read a few things on jury nullification on both sides. Haven’t reached a firm opinion yet.

  • notjohnsmosby

    11 whites and 1 black on the jury sort of foretold this initial decision.

    • MD Russ

      Just the opposite of the OJ Simpson jury, NJM.

      • notjohnsmosby

        That’s my point. I don’t think juries need to be 50/50 based on race or gender, but lopsided juries do increase the odds that one or two people can ignore ironclad evidence.

        At least in the OJ case, there wasn’t a video of OJ stabbing his wife and her friend. In the South Carolina case, the video shows what went down.

        • MD Russ

          Are you saying that the evidence in the OJ case was any less conclusive? There is video of JFK being shot, but that doesn’t dissuade the conspiracy theorists of claiming that there was a second shooter. There is video and radar tapes of American Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon on 9-11, but that doesn’t dissuade conspiracy theorists from claiming that it was a truck bomb.

          My point is that video evidence is not necessarily conclusive to all 12 people on a jury. People see what they want to believe. Exhibit A: Donald Trump.

  • MD Russ

    DJ,

    Neither you nor Sean Hannity were on the jury and witnessed the court procedings, esp. the voir dire of the prospective jurors and the jury deliberations. Have you ever sat on a murder trial? I have and it is a wrenching experience. Regardless, Slager remains in jail and the prosecutor has already declared that there will be a re-trial.

    BTW, the term “jury of your peers” refers to presumed peers of the accused, not the victim.

    • D.j. Spiker

      Jury of your peers applies to both when there is a victim, but you’re correct.

      And Slager is not in jail, but yes there will be a re-trial. Additionally, he faces federal charges with a life sentence.

      • MD Russ

        I stand corrected on him being in jail. He was released on home detention before the trial. As a cop who shot a black man, his life was in danger in jail, even in solitary confinement. Perhaps that was in the mind of the hold-out juror.

  • mark Jawsz

    OK, let me breath a little bit of reality into this conversation. The mistrial occurred because the charges were (if I heard the reports correctly) FIRST DEGREE MURDER. Now, I know the Spiker lads are too busy with their noses up the asses of the BLM movement to think correctly along this line of matters , but perhaps if the charges had been SECOND DEGREE MURDER, the jury would have been able to reach a unanimous verdict.

    • Stephen Spiker

      1) South Carolina doesn’t have a first degree or a second degree of murder. It’s simply murder.

      2) The jury was allowed to convict on the murder charge or a lesser voluntary manslaughter charge.

      But thank you for breathing a little bit of reality into the conversation.

    • MD Russ

      Wrong, Dog Breath. In South Carolina, as in many other jurisdictions including the UCMJ, either trial counsel can request that the judge instruct the jury on the option of finding the accused guilty of a lesser included offense. The classic example is a man who is on trial for anal rape of another man. The jury can convict him of “following too close.”

      • mark Jawsz

        Actually, my breath is very refreshing. So say the ladies.

  • mark Jawsz

    What does the third paragraph say of this Washington Times article? The guy was charged with First Degree murder. Here is one article: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/dec/2/michael-slager-trial-jury-deadlocked/ And here is another: https://thinkprogress.org/everything-the-police-said-about-walter-scotts-death-before-a-video-showed-what-really-happened-f623b4205390#.hzog1ppnm We need our resident legal expert, Brian, to explain the truth. For the record, I would have no problem convicting him of manslaughter, or maybe even second degree murder. But if the lone charge was first degree murder, I would easily acquit.

    • Stephen Spiker

      Because sometimes national journalists/bloggers use a common understanding of law that doesn’t take into account various idiosyncrasies in each state?

      I didn’t know that some states don’t have degrees of murder until this trial, either. Turns out its true and South Carolina is one of them.

      • mark Jawsz

        All I know is what I read in the papers and on line articles. I saw the video also and was flabbergasted. That cop should go to jail. But as anyone who has watched Colombo and who is without a racialist agenda can see, that ain’t first degree murder. It would be hard – if not impossible – to prove pre-meditation. Here again, I am waiting for Mr. Schoeneman speak up on this. He is the lawyer.

        • Stephen Spiker

          He’s not a murder lawyer, but suit yourself. This is fairly easy to look up and verify online.

          • mark Jawsz

            Despite my various ploys and plots to malign him, I very much respect Brian. He is the closest thing to a straight shooter among the BD cast of regulars.

          • Stephen Spiker

            I understand. I’m just saying, this is easy to verify online. I’m not sure what you expect Brian to have to say beyond, “From what I can tell online, it looks like Spiker’s right, but I’m not a murder lawyer and I’ve never practiced law in South Carolina.”

          • From what I can tell online, it looks like Spiker’s right, but I’m not a murder lawyer and I’ve never practiced law in South Carolina.

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