A white South Carolina police officer charged with murder for shooting a black man in the back as he fled after a traffic stop will not face the death penalty if convicted of the killing, a local newspaper reported on Monday.
None of the 22 “aggravating circumstances” that allow state lawyers to seek lethal punishment apply in the April 4 incident in which 50-year-old Walter Scott was fatally shot by North Charleston patrolman Michael Slager, the Post and Courier quoted a local prosecutor as saying.
“There are aggravating circumstances which can take a murder case from being a maximum of life to death being the maximum sentence. None of those factors are present in this case,” Scarlett Wilson, Charleston County’s chief prosecutor, told the Charleston newspaper.
Such factors include murders committed during a kidnapping, robbery or drug trafficking, the Post and Courier reported.
Wilson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Scott’s death reignited a public outcry over police treatment of blacks that flared last year after the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and elsewhere.
North Charleston fired Slager last week after he was charged with murder in Scott’s death. A cellphone video emerged showing him shooting at Scott’s back eight times. Scott did not appear armed in the footage.
Slager is being held at the Charleston County jail. Without the possibility of capital punishment, he faces a potential penalty of 30 years to life in prison if convicted, the newspaper reported.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod in Charleston, S.C.; Additional reporting and writing by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney)