Jurors deliberate for third day in ex-South Carolina cop's murder trial

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 02, 2016 12:26 PM

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A state judge on Friday refused to define the words "fear" and "passion" for jurors deciding whether a white former South Carolina police officer who shot and killed a fleeing black motorist last year is guilty of murder.

Jurors are deliberating for a third day in the state case against ex-North Charleston patrolman Michael Slager, 35. His shooting of 50-year-old Walter Scott after an April 2015 traffic stop, captured by in bystander's cellphone video, intensified debate over racial bias by U.S. police.

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.

On Thursday, Judge Clifton Newman granted their request for 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 called by the prosecution and defense.

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, however, 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; Editig by Steve Orlofsky)