U.S District judge sentenced former officer Michael Slager, to 20 years in prison for the killing of Walter Scott. Recently submitted video footage played a major role in the conviction and sentence. As a result, Slager pleaded guilty back in May to a federal civil rights violation. This plea came after a deadlocked jury could not decide Slager’s guilt or innocence. Still, prosecutors knew they would retry the matter.
After the deadlocked jury in state court, the parties worked out a plea agreement to resolve the state murder case and the federal civil rights case together. Although Slager pleaded guilty, there was still the question of whether to apply second-degree murder sentencing or voluntary manslaughter. The judge ultimately decided that Slager committed second-degree murder and obstruction of justice. Judge David Norton stated, “Slager’s actions were disproportional to Scott’s misconduct.”
Caught on tape: the taser plant
When Walter Scott attempted to run away the routine traffic stop turned fatal. Slager testified that he was in “total fear” and that the victim reached for the officer’s taser. The two scuffled and then Scott ran away while Slager shot him five times in the back. Feidin Santana recorded the incident which depicted Slager dropping his taser near Scott’s body. To prosecutors, this amounted to obstruction of justice in an attempt to plant evidence. The video, of course, went viral and drew national attention to the case.
U.S. District Judge stated that Slager “acted out of malice and forethought, shooting dead an unarmed and fleeing Walter Scott.”
Prosecutors stated in a sentencing memorandum why they believe Slager should receive a life sentence. “As the defendant knew at that time from his law enforcement training, he was prohibited from using lethal force in this situation because using lethal force against an unarmed, non-dangerous fleeing subject was a gross deviation from reasonable conduct.”
The settlement deal with Walter Scott’s family
Back in 2015, the city of North Charleston settled with Scott’s family for 6.5 million dollars. That settlement, however, had nothing to do with the murder trial of the officer. The two are completely different matters. Notice, that this is far more than the $800,000 settlement for the killing of Philando Castile (which is also on video).
Police killings of unarmed and non-dangerous citizens rarely end in a conviction even when there is videotape. 909 people, black and white, have been killed by police in the U.S. this year alone. This represents a number that is far too high. We all need to keep videotaping because we’ve come too far to only come this far.