Why the Former South Carolina Cop May Walk in The Scott Slaying

Apr. 13, 2015 / By

New America Media, News Analysis, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Posted: Apr 08, 2015

Former North Charleston Police officer Michael Thomas Slager has been charged with murder in the shooting death of Walter Scott. At first glance, it seems a virtual slam dunk to nail Slager on the charge.

There’s the clear as a bell video shot in broad daylight which shows Scott in full flight not toward but away from Slager. There’s Slager clearly drilling him as he flees. There’s the unequivocal, even outraged retort by North Charleston police chief Eddie Driggers that he was “sickened” at seeing the video. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and Driggers visited the slain man’s family and commiserated with their “suffering.” To top it off, Slager was jailed with no bond immediately set.

But that doesn’t mean that he’ll be convicted of murder, or for that matter any other charge in the Scott killing. The reason for that tells much about the way the over use of deadly force by officers is treated within the criminal justice system. Even in the rare cases, such as Slager where cops are hauled into a court docket for overuse of deadly force, they routinely walk free. Their defense lawyers are top guns, with lots of experience defending police officers accused of misconduct. Police unions bankroll their defense and spare no expense. Slager is the even more rare exception in that he was actually fired and jailed. They are usually placed on administrative (paid) leave pending the start or finish of a pro forma promised investigation. And when they do serve pre-trial jail time, they are quickly released on ridiculously low bail. We’ll watch closely to see what Slager’s bail is set at.

When the cops are tried by a jury, police defense attorneys seek to get as many middle class people, whites and even blacks and Latinos, on the jury as possible. The presumption is that they are much more likely to believe the testimony of police and police defense witnesses than black witnesses, defendants, or even the victims. It’s a presumption that has been born out in police misconduct trials time and again. George Zimmerman even got the benefit of that presumption when he walked in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.


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