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Michael Slager Trial Over Walter Scott Shooting Ends in Mistrial

Only a third of police officers facing criminal charges are ever convicted.

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A judge has declared a mistrial in the case of Michael Slager, the South Carolina cop who shot and killed Walter Scott, after a jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. The fatal incident happened in April 2015, when Slager pulled Scott over for driving with a broken brake light. Scott, who was unarmed, fled the scene, but was shot in the back at least eight times. Slager claimed that Scott attempted to grab his stun gun, but a civilian video of the incident shows this not to be true. The video also appears to show the cop placing his Taser next to Scott's dead body.

The video of the shooting proves that Scott was no threat to Slager when he was shot. Slager could have easily caught up to the 50-year-old and apprehended him. The cop could also have let Scott get away, since there was no reason to believe that he would endanger the public, as his only crime was driving with a broken taillight. In spite of this damning evidence, the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision, and the judge declared a mistrial. Even though Charleston County is 28 percent black, eleven of the twelve jury members were white.

The failure of the jury to convict Slager is typical of police shooting trials. According to the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, only 33 percent of cops facing criminal charges between April 2009 and December 2010 were convicted. Of those who actually were convicted, only 36 percent ended up serving prison sentences. Civilians who face criminal charges are about twice as likely to be convicted, and about twice as likely to go to jail if convicted.

“There is a tendency to believe an officer over a civilian, in terms of credibility,” civil rights lawyer David Rudovsky said. “And when an officer is on trial, reasonable doubt has a lot of bite. A prosecutor needs a very strong case before a jury will say that somebody who we generally trust to protect us has so seriously crossed the line as to be subject to a conviction.”

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