Jurors considering a murder charge against a white South Carolina former police officer who shot and killed a fleeing black motorist last year told a judge on Friday they were unable to reach a verdict.
Jurors were deliberating for a third day in the case against ex-North Charleston patrolman Michael Slager, 35. His shooting of 50-year-old Walter Scott after an April 2015 traffic stop, captured in a bystander’s cellphone video, intensified debate in the United States over racial bias by police.
“It is clear that jurors will not be able to come to consensus,” the panel said Friday afternoon in a note to Judge Clifton Newman.
The judge told jurors they had a duty “to make every reasonable effort to reach a unanimous verdict” and instructed them to continue their deliberations.
If no verdict is reached, the judge said he would declare a mistrial and re-try the case later with a different jury.
Prosecutors charged Slager with murder, but jurors could instead find him guilty of voluntary manslaughter if they decide Slager killed Scott in the heat of passion after provocation rather than with malice.
Or they could acquit the former officer if they believe he acted in self-defense because he feared his own death or serious injury.
Earlier on Friday, Newman refused the jury’s request for definitions of the words “fear” and “passion.”
On Thursday, the judge agreed to provide them transcripts of the testimony given by Slager and the chief investigator on the case.
The jury of 11 white people and one black person heard four weeks of testimony from more than 50 witnesses.
Prosecutors repeatedly showed the video in court and urged jurors to trust what they saw. The state said the footage proved Slager was not in danger when he fired eight shots at the fleeing Scott, hitting him with five bullets.
The defense said the video did not tell the whole story.
Slager said he did not know at the time of the incident that Scott was unarmed. The ex-cop testified he felt “total fear” after the motorist grabbed his stun gun during a scuffle between the two men.
Slager said he fired his gun until he felt the threat against him was over. Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Scott ever threatened the officer with the stun gun and more likely was trying to get away from it.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by James Dalgleish and Grant McCool)