December 02, 2016
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Jurors deliberating in the murder trial of a white ex-patrolman charged with murder for shooting a black motorist asked Thursday for transcripts of key testimony and wondered about the difference between passion and fear.
Michael Slager, a native of South Jersey, is charged in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott, who was shot five times in the back in April 2015 as he fled a traffic stop after his 1990 Mercedes was pulled for a broken taillight. A bystander's cellphone video of the shooting shocked the nation.
A jury of one black and 11 whites had deliberated more than nine hours over two days in the case of the 35-year-old Slager by the end of the day Thursday. Deliberations resume Friday.
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Slager, a 2001 graduate of Lenape High School in Medford, Burlington County, worked as a waiter in Voorhees prior to leaving South Jersey in 2003 to join the Coast Guard.
At one point Thursday, Judge Clifton Newman called attorneys to the courtroom saying jurors wanted transcripts Slager's trial testimony as well as that of Angela Peterson, the lead South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agent who investigated the shooting. Attorneys did not object to the request.
The jury also had a question for the judge: the legal difference between fear and passion. The issue was being researched overnight and Newman said that the jurors would get an answer Friday.
The jury can consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter which in South Carolina is the taking of another life in the heat of passion when provoked.
Slager testified that he feared for his life when he said Scott wrestled with him, got control of his Taser and pointed it at him.
Although jurors were still deliberating, Slager's attorneys filed a motion asking that if he is convicted, sentencing be delayed until a probation report is compiled. Generally in South Carolina, those convicted of crimes are sentenced immediately after the verdict.
Jurors heard testimony from 55 witnesses during the monthlong trial.
To convict Slager of murder, the jury would have to be convinced he had malice toward Scott. A murder conviction would carry a penalty of 30 years to life. Manslaughter carries a sentence of two to 30 years imprisonment.