South Carolina – Charleston prepares to select the jury to determine if Michael Slager, a white former policeman, is guilty of murder after he shot dead an unarmed African American man, a few months ago in the town of South Carolina.
The death of Walter Scott on the hands of the police officer shocked America after a cellphone-recorded video of the event was spread all over the social networks. It became one of the many shootings that have sparked the debate within America over race disparities faced in front the law in many cities such as New York, Ferguson, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Charlotte.
“When an officer is prosecuted, will you get justice?” asked Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Scott family. “The verdict is huge. It needs to serve as a lesson to officers that if you break the law, you don’t just get away.”
Slager could face life in prison
Michael Slager, who turns 35 in November, is facing 30 years to life imprisonment if he is found guilty of the shooting that occurred when he shot Scott. He made Scott pull over because of a broken taillight and minutes later Scott had been shot. The whole incident was recorded by Scott’s girlfriend with her phone and was shared on her Facebook account two days later.
However, Michael Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage, is appealing to the fact that there is more to the incident that what is shown in the video, including a fight between the officer and the driver over Slager’s Taser.
Savage says that it must be considered the fact that the brief video clip on the internet, doesn’t show when Slager warned he would fire, and it didn’t show the fight they had when Scott was on top of the officer.
Soon after the video took over the media, Slager was arrested and charged with murder and violation of civil rights. He was in jail eight months. It wasn’t until January when an order was issued to release him, by Judge Clifton Newman, who is a black man. He was released on a half-million dollar bond, and he is currently under house arrest.
600 potential jurors for the trial
Over 600 summonses were sent to possible jurors for the trial. They had to answer some question regarding race and police conduct. After that, 200 are expected to appear in courts on Monday. Savage asked authorities a change of venue since according to a study ran by his firm, 85 percent of the people in Charleston County had seen the video and may be biased. Newman has not accepted Savage’s motion.
Slager is also facing a trial next year in federal courts given the fact that he deprived Scott of his civil rights. If he is found guilty could add a life sentence, 30 years in prison and a fine of $750.000 to sentence under the South Carolina’s jurisdiction.
Since 2005, only 27 officers out of 77, have been convicted in the states due to murder or manslaughter in an on-duty fatal shooting. 29 officers ended with no conviction, and the other 21 cases are pending, including Slager’s.
“Our confidence level in the justice process working is like sitting on pins and needles,” said Edward Bryant III, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Source: ABC News