CHARLESTON, SC (AP) — A jury has begun a third day of deliberations in the murder trial of a South Carolina police officer who was fired from his job after he shot and killed a black man. The killing sparked national outrage after video taken by a witness was circulated online.
Michael Slager, who is white, is charged in the death of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old African-American. Scott was shot five times in the back as he fled from Slager after being pulled over in North Charleston on April 4, 2015 for having a broken taillight on his vehicle.
By early Friday, the 12-member jury — comprised of 11 white members and one African-American — had deliberated more than 10 hours over three days.
The jury is being allowed to consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which is shooting someone in the heat of passion. A murder conviction, which requires the jury to agree that Slager had malice toward Scott, carries a sentence of 30 years to life.
Voluntary manslaughter carries a sentence of from two to 30 years.
Judge Clifton Newman told the jurors Friday morning that the court could not instruct them on how the heat of passion may differ from fear. The jury asked for definitions of both late Thursday, but the judge said it’s an issue jurors must decide.
Slager testified he feared for his life when he shot Scott.
The judge told the jurors they needed to apply their common sense and understanding of common words and phrases. He said the jurors should consult his jury charge, of which they have a copy.
The charge to the jury said that “sudden heat of passion may, for a time, affect a person’s self-control and temporarily disturb a person’s reason.”