North Charleston police officer Michael Slager was charged with murdering Walter Scott on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing the cop fatally shooting an unarmed Scott eight times. The video evidence that effectively indicted Slager showed he failed to administer CPR or first aid to Scott afterward, as he had originally stated in his police report. The footage also did not appear to corroborate Slager's claim that Scott was trying to take the officer's stun gun during the horrifying incident that occurred Saturday at around 9:30 a.m. local time. Slager was subsequently fired on Wednesday as a result. But South Carolina officer Michael Slager, charged with Walter Scott's murder, could face the death penalty if convicted.
It's unclear when Slager will reach a jury trial — that is, if he doesn't plead out. For the particular charge of murder lobbed against him, Slager could receive a minimum 30-year sentence or even face the death penalty if convicted. Though other cops in similar instances have emerged unscathed after alleged cases of police brutality, South Carolina's response to Slager has been much swifter, perhaps implying there will be a different result. Both South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott have criticized Slager and have voiced their support for Scott's family.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey condemned Slager's actions and immediately vowed to order 150 body cameras for the police department in addition to the 101 already ordered. The community has been peaceful but vocal, though frequent interruptions threatened to derail a press conference with the mayor. The county has ruled Scott's death as a homicide and even Slager's own (now former) attorney David Aylor has dropped Slager as a client following the release of the video.
With nearly unequivocal support from the community for Scott, it may be difficult to find an unbiased jury in the area to hear Slager's case, and it could certainly affect his sentencing if he's found guilty. The fact is the video supplied is so graphic. To date, not a single police officer in South Carolina has faced the death penalty. The last execution occurred in the state in 2011 and was a lethal injection administered to Jeffrey Motts. Motts was convicted in 1997 for killing his prison cellmate, a crime quite far off from what happened between Slager and Scott. Motts also advocated heavily to be put to death rather than be given any chance to appeal.Slager's new attorney, whoever he or she may be, will probably advocate for a more lenient penalty. If Slager is convicted, a potential life sentence seems all the more likely than the death penalty given its decline in use.
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