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BREAKING: Judge declares mistrial in fatal OIS of Walter Scott, majority of jury undecided

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Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, left, is escorted from the courthouse during his murder trial at the Charleston County court in Charleston, S.C.
Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, center, is escorted from the courthouse during his murder trial at the Charleston County court in Charleston, S.C.


UPDATE: Following days of deliberations and back and forth with undecided jurors, the judge in the murder trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager has declared a mistrial in the highly publicized case.

Earlier:

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The jury remained undecided — but not deadlocked — on Monday in the murder trial of a white police officer charged with shooting a black motorist in South Carolina last year.

The defence in ex-patrolman Michael Slager’s five-week trial that Slager feared for his life when 50-year-old Walter Scott got control his of his stun gun and pointed it at him. Slager was fired from the North Charleston police department after the confrontation with Scott on April 4, 2015.

A video of Scott, who was unarmed, being shot in the back was recorded on a bystander’s cellphone. It was shared widely online and in the media and sparked national outrage. Slager faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder. The jury is also considering a lesser verdict of voluntary manslaughter.

As the jury recessed for the weekend on Friday, it appeared only one juror stood in the way of a verdict. That juror had sent the judge a letter saying that he could not “with good conscience approve a guilty verdict.” The jury foreman later told Newman that he thought the jurors could still reach a verdict and deliberations continued.

On Monday, jurors sent a note to the judge indicating that “the majority” were still undecided on a verdict. They also posed numerous questions to the judge. They asked for clarification on why voluntary manslaughter was added as a possible verdict and whether the definition of self-defence for a police is different than for the average person.

By early Monday afternoon, a panel consisting of one black and 11 white jurors had deliberated more than 20 hours.

Defence attorney Andy Savage renewed his request for a mistrial, a request the judge rejected on Friday.

“The note that was received Friday was unequivocal,” Savage said. “This court is aware one or more of the jurors is unequivocally unwilling to vote for the guilt.”

But Newman let deliberations continue after the Monday note.

“Importantly the note says the majority of the jurors are undecided. It doesn’t say they are deadlocked,” he said.

© 2016 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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