CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A nearly all-White jury was seated Wednesday for the murder trial of a White former South Carolina officer whose fatal shooting of a Black man stunned the nation after it was recorded by a bystander.
Former North Charleston police office Michael Slager (right), is lead into court, in Charleston, S.C. Jury selection begins Monday, Oct. 31, 2016, in the murder trial of Slager charged with shooting Walter Scott (left), an unarmed black motorist in April 2015. (Facebook and AP Photos)
A jury of six White men, five White women and one Black man will hear the case of Michael Slager, who is charged with murder in the April 2015 shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott as Scott fled a traffic stop in North Charleston.
The images of Slager repeatedly shooting Scott in the back as he tried to run away inspired many others to record encounters with police since then, and both officer-involved shootings and slayings of police have only drawn more attention.
The jury was seated after two days of qualification, as authorities apprehended a suspect in the killings of two Iowa officers shot while sitting in their patrol cars. Testimony also began Wednesday in the Ohio murder trial of a White officer who fatally shot a Black man.
In the Slager trial, the defense struck nine potential jurors, including seven minorities. The prosecution challenged whether the defense was using only race as a basis for disqualifying them. The challenge was dropped after the defense provided detailed reasons for its strikes.
Some of those reasons were: not having a good understanding of English, expressing anti-gun sentiments, and in one case, a potential juror is a friend of the medical examiner, who is expected to testify.
Attorney Andy Savage, an attorney working for Michael Slager, speaks with Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, right, on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Charleston County court, in Charleston, S.C. The pool from which a jury will be selected to hear the case of white former South Carolina policeman Michael Slager, left, charged in the shooting death of a black motorist, Walter Scott, is predominantly white. Attorneys are using their strikes on Wednesday morning to select a jury of 12 people and six alternate jurors to hear the case of Michael Slager. (Grace Beahm/Post and Courier via AP, Pool, File)
Figures released by the clerk of court in Charleston County show that of the pool of 75 qualified jurors from which the jury was selected, 16 are black, or just over 20 percent. Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show the black population of the state and the county is about 28 percent.
Opening arguments are expected on Thursday. Judge Clifton Newman was to hear motions on Wednesday afternoon, including one asking that the dramatic cellphone video of the shooting be kept out of the trial.
Slager’s attorney Andy Savage, in a motion Tuesday called the video “prejudicial, inflammatory and factually deficient.” He said bystander Feidin Santana took it from 137 feet away and not from the officer’s perspective. The clip is also “obscured or blurry and thus confusing,” the motion said.
The video does not show all of a fight that took place between Slager and Scott, and if it is allowed, it should not be shown in slow motion because that implies that Slager had malicious intent toward Scott, the motion said.
Slager, 34, faces 30 years to life if convicted of murder. Scott was shot after being pulled over for a broken taillight.