Process for finding next Michael Slager jury to start in a week
In more than a week from now and a month since a jury couldn’t reach a verdict in Walter Scott’s death, the process for finding the next panel to consider the case will begin.
Sheriff’s deputies will fan out Jan. 18 throughout Charleston County to deliver 600 jury duty summonses. The process will be similar to the one that brought in the 12 jurors whose indecision in former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager’s murder case prompted a mistrial in early December.
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman issued an order Friday that laid out those initial procedures.
Slager pulled over Scott’s car April 4, 2015, for a broken brake light. He chased Scott when the 50-year-old motorist started running.
The two got into a struggle, and Slager said Scott took his Taser and tried to use it against him. That’s when he decided, he said, to pull his pistol and open fire.
But an eyewitness video showed Scott turning and running away as Slager fired eight times when Scott was at least 17 feet away. Five bullets hit Scott from behind, and he died at the scene.
For more than a month, the dozen jurors heard testimony at a courthouse in downtown Charleston. But during their four days of deliberations, many jurors couldn’t decide whether Slager should be convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter, or be acquitted of all the charges, some said since then. Some had decided on a manslaughter conviction, and others wanted to find Slager not guilty.
Newman declared a deadlock and ordered a mistrial.
Federal authorities planned to try Slager in a separate civil rights proceeding in early May, but the state’s retrial was set for March 1. In each, he would face life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
In his order Friday, Newman said the pool of 600 prospective jurors will be chosen randomly. The court clerk can send summonses by mail to anyone who cannot be found in person by sheriff’s deputies, the judge said. The deputies must follow up and make sure the potential jurors complete questionnaires and send the forms back to the clerk.
Any possible jurors who are at least 65 years old or who served on the grand jury that indicted Slager can be excused from service immediately. The judge will weigh any other excuses given by the jurors.
Their answers on the questionnaires will help attorneys determine which jurors they want to exclude, or strike, during the selection process at the trial’s start.