Nearly every juror in the murder trial of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old unarmed black man killed while fleeing a fight with South Carolina police officer Michael Slager, is white.
During jury selection this week, the defense blocked nine potential jurors, seven of who were minorities, The Post and Courier reported. In the end, 11 of the 12 jurors picked were white. “They … (said) that they could be fair and impartial,” said the presiding circuit judge, Clifton Newman, of the white jurors.
The six white men, five white women and one black man who up make the primary jury listened to opening statements from the prosecution and defense in a Charleston Courthouse Thursday. They hoped to piece together what transpired after Slager pulled Scott over in his car in North Charleston, South Carolina, for not having a functioning brake light. A coroner later found five bullets in Scott’s corpse.
Video from Slager’s dashcam showed the officer at the window of Scott’s car asking for driver’s license and insurance paperwork. When Slager returned to his police car to check on the documents, Scott jumped out of his vehicle and attempted to run away, prompting Slager to chase after Scott for roughly 200 yards until the two began fighting.
A bystander video shows the physical confrontation and reveals Scott pivoting away from the officer in an attempt to flee. Within a second’s time, the video shows Scott still running when Slayer fired eight bullets. Five hit Scott, who was seen on video falling face first into the grass.
In her opening statement, prosecutor Scarlett Wilson reemphasized that Scott was trying to run away from Slager, citing how he had been shot multiple times in the back, NPR reported.
Slager, 34, is charged with murder. He was fired from the North Charleston Police Department after the April 4, 2015 shooting. He faces between 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.
Slager’s defense attorney, Andy Savage, told jurors that it was Scott who provoked the shooting. “It wasn’t Mr. Slager who was angry and full of animosity,” said Savage.
A partnership of civil rights advocacy organizations, including the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, released a statement Wednesday where they said they hoped this trial would shine a light on the level of racial discrimination black Americans in the Charleston community feel they experienced at the hands of police.
“While the jury composition of 11 white and one black jurors is disturbingly unrepresentative of the Charleston County population,” said the groups in a joint statement to The Post and Courier, “We hope and expect the criminal proceedings to be fair and transparent in its pursuit of truth and justice, and help the public understand how a routine traffic stop turned fatal.”
Scott was one of 968 people killed by police officers in 2015, according to a Washington Post database that tracks police killings. None of the officers involved were convicted, according to the New York Daily News.
Black Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police than whites. Although black men represent 6 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 40 percent of people killed by police while unarmed.
Charleston County is roughly 28 percent black, according to the latest U.S. Census.