Monday, December 5, 2016

What does a mistrial mean for Michael Slager?

New date. New jury. New trial.

Posted by Sam Spence on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 5:20 PM

click to enlarge Lead defense attorney Andy Savage and former North Charleston officer Michael Slager - GRACE BEAHM/POST AND COURIER
  • Grace Beahm/Post and Courier
  • Lead defense attorney Andy Savage and former North Charleston officer Michael Slager
After a mistrial was declared today, murder charges remain pending against former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager in the shooting death of Walter Scott. Prosecutors will have to retry their case and Slager attorneys will likely defend the ex-cop against murder charges for a second time.

The mistrial was declared today after Judge Clifton Newman gave jurors multiple chances to reach a verdict when they indicated Friday they may be unable to come do a unanimous decision. In order for guilt or innocence to be decided, the jury's decision must be unanimous. In the case of a hung jury, like this one, a mistrial must be declared.

So this trial is over. But the case against Slager is not.

Mistrials can be declared in a number of circumstances in any trial, a hung jury is just one of those reasons. Simple administrative missteps of procedure or errors by attorneys on either side can be cause for a judge to declare a mistrial.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson quickly said after the trial adjourned that her office will retry the case. The trial must once again be scheduled, a new jury will be called and selected, and the whole process begins again. Witnesses will have to re-testify, but can be held to their previously-sworn testimony. The timeline is unclear at this point, but the length of the initial Slager trial and federal involvement in the case could make scheduling challenging.

Slager remains presumed innocent and will be out on bond as his new case is pending.

As a North Charleston police officer, Michael Slager was arrested and charged with murder after shooting and killing Walter Scott during an April 2015 traffic stop initiated because of a broken taillight. During his trial, Slager testified that he grew fearful during the scuffle that ensued after Scott attempted to flee.

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