The federal judge presiding over the Michael Slager trial ordered the jury to keep working after jurors said they could not come to a consensus on Friday, CNN reports.
The White ex-cop is on trial for the shooting death of Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man, in North Charleston, South Carolina. Slager shot Scott during an April 2015 traffic stop when the 50-year-old fled, fearful of prior warrants out for his arrest.
“You have a duty to make every reasonable effort to reach a unanimous verdict,” Judge Clifton Newman said to the jurors. According to CNN, 11 Whites and one African-American make up the jury.
On Thursday evening, the jury left with an explicit question. Jurors wanted Judge Newman to define the distinction between “passion” and “fear.”
Via The Post and Courier:
The 12 jurors’ question, written in a note, had come late Thursday. While it showed that some jurors have focused on an issue related to manslaughter, the lesser of the two charges that they could choose for a conviction, the judge cautioned about reading into the question any further.
Murder carries a higher standard that requires prosecutors to prove some sort of malice, or ill will, in Slager’s mind when he pulled the trigger. Manslaughter is a killing in the “heat of passion,” or uncontrollable emotion, after the killer is somehow provoked. But fear is also a common expression of a self-defense claim; Slager said he was in “total fear” after Scott took his Taser during a fight and turned it on him.
A murder conviction would bring a sentence between 30 years and life in prison while manslaughter carries two to 30 years.
On Friday, Judge Newman told the jurors they would need to come up with their own definition and refused to answer, citing that it would interfere with the jury instructions. Two notes were sent on Friday in the span of 12 minutes; the first asked for a testimonial transcript, while the second note inferred jurors could not come to a consensus.
It’s unclear how the jury is split, and what charge jurors are leaning towards.
They (the jurors) have three options for the outcome of Slager’s trial: a guilty verdict on murder or voluntary manslaughter, or an acquittal. If it cannot unanimously agree on either, the jury would be hung, and a mistrial would be declared, The Post and Courier writes.