"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

South Carolina: Former police officer Michael T. Slager indicted in fatal shooting of Walter L. Scott

Michael T. Slager
Michael T. Slager
A former police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was indicted Monday [June 8, 2015] by a grand jury on a murder charge in connection with the April shooting death of Walter L. Scott, which was recorded by a passer-by and became a resonating symbol in the national debate about police behavior.

The former officer, Michael T. Slager, had been jailed on a murder charge since April 7, when the video became public. Mr. Slager’s lawyers have so far made no request for bail, and his indictment in Charleston County had been widely expected.

The North Charleston Police Department fired him after the shooting, which city officials criticized in stark and unsparing terms.

Despite the intensive publicity surrounding the shooting, Scarlett A. Wilson, the local prosecutor, said Monday that she believed a local jury could be impaneled and would be able to arrive at an unbiased verdict. A trial date has not been set.

Under South Carolina law, there is only a single murder charge, which Ms. Wilson described as being an “unlawful killing with malice aforethought” — with the premeditation required to exist for only a few seconds before a killing in order to gain a conviction.

“As long as malice is proven in the heart and mind, the state has proven its case,” she said.

The case was presented to the grand jury on Monday morning, and the panel returned the indictment within a few hours.

Rodney Scott, a younger brother of Walter Scott, said the Scott family was satisfied with the indictment.

A pedestrian recorded the shooting and some of its aftermath on a cellphone and provided the video to Mr. Scott’s family, which turned it over to the authorities. After the video became public, many observers focused on a moment in which Mr. Slager appeared to drop an object, possibly his Taser, near Mr. Scott’s body.

Critics have also accused Mr. Slager and Officer Clarence W. Habersham, who was the first officer to arrive after the shooting, of providing insufficient medical attention to Mr. Scott.

Mr. Slager, a former member of the Coast Guard, joined the North Charleston force in 2010. Before Mr. Scott’s death, Mr. Slager had been the subject of two formal complaints, including one for excessive force after he used his Taser while he pursued a burglary suspect.

The city cleared Mr. Slager of wrongdoing in that 2013 case, but the man involved in the episode, Mario Givens, has been among those to announce since Mr. Scott’s death that he would pursue civil litigation against the former officer and the North Charleston authorities.

Police records obtained by The New York Times show that Mr. Slager was involved in 19 use-of-force episodes during his tenure as a police officer, including the shooting death of Mr. Scott and the encounter with Mr. Givens.

Of those 19 episodes, the records show, at least 14 involved Mr. Slager’s using his Taser in some manner. Mr. Scott’s shooting was the only time that Mr. Slager fired his handgun while on patrol.

Source: The New York Times, June 8, 2015

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