Jury nullification occurs when a jury seems to ignore evidence, or the law was common in the segregated Jim Crow South, and white folk took pride in letting crimes against black people go unpunished. History is littered with such facts and that is what came to mind with Monday’s mistrial in the case of a white South Carolina police officer caught on video fatally shooting a fleeing, unarmed black after stopping him for driving with a broken taillight.
In the last few years, case after case reflect the debauchery of what is can only be called 21st-century lynchings! It is unknown how many such tragedies have occurred from the time black people were stolen and brought to America. Particularly since Reconstruction and the civil rights era where white defendants accused of crimes that left a black person cheated, abused, or dead were acquitted by all-white juries whose members could not see past race in assessing the evidence put before them. The most shocking case was that of little Emmett Till when his killers confessed but white people found them not guilty!
Though there was one black person on the jury considering the case of Michael T. Slager, the outcome was similar in a trial that was further complicated by the defendant’s being a policeman, which I should remind you were created to be slave catchers. History also shows juries are routinely reluctant to question the actions of an officer who had to act swiftly in a perceived life-or-death situation. This was not the case here; the officer lied in his report, tried to plant a taser, had an eyewitness and was recorded on video.
Slager was accused of murder and manslaughter in the death of Walter L. Scott, whom the North Charleston, S.C., the police officer stopped on April 4, 2015. A struggled ensued the cop said Mr. Scott supposedly took his taser and tried to use on him. Mr. Scott is seen running from Slager, who raises his Glock and fires eight shots at the fleeing man in about three seconds. Scott, at least 17 feet away, is hit five times in the back. Slager testified “I see him with a taser in his hand as I see him spinning around… That’s the only thing I see: that Taser in his hand.”
But Slager was either lying or delusional about his fatal encounter with Scott. The video also showed him dropping his Taser next to Scott’s body. It seems Slager has a fondness for the electrical device that can temporarily paralyze. Records show he accounted for 4 percent of all Taser use in 2014 by the 340-member North Charleston police force.
The jury saw that video at least a dozen times during the trial. But three days into deliberations its foreman, the lone black person on the panel, told the judge that one juror would not agree to convict Slager of either murder or a lesser charge of manslaughter, which would allow a sentence as little as two years. Urged to continue deliberating, the next day the jury reported that a “majority” was now undecided. A mistrial was declared.
They tell us the Slager will get another day in court; in fact; more than one. He also faces federal charges of depriving Scott of his civil rights. Meanwhile, Scott’s mother says she is putting her trust in a higher authority, which is what black people always do. “We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses,” she shouted after the court proceedings ended with a hung jury. “He will get his reward. I’m just waiting on the Lord.” Shameful to believe that White Jesus will do anything!
In the meantime, the unsatisfactory outcome of the Slager trial with his guilt or innocence still up in the air despite what appeared to be enough evidence to come to a conclusion. This case has left a bad taste in the mouths of many black people – no a clear example of a return to Jim Crow status – it stinks!
But the authorities tell us that better police training and new procedures will solve the problem of police shooting unarmed black people. However, that does not address the issue of prejudice. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…