The murder trial of a former South Carolina policeman who shot an unarmed black motorist last year opens on Monday with jury selection, putting the national spotlight back on a case that dramatized the issue of racial bias in law enforcement.
Michael Slager, a white North Charleston police officer, was arrested and charged with murder in April 2015 when a bystander’s cellphone video emerged that appeared to show him firing eight times at the back of a black man who was fleeing from him.
Slager, now 34, has pleaded not guilty and was released from jail on bond in early January.
In pretrial motions, Slager’s defense lawyers said the officer was on patrol in what they described as a dangerous neighborhood when he stopped Walter Scott, 50, for driving a car with a broken brake light.
When Scott got out of his car and fled, Slager said he chased the black man on foot and hit him with a stun gun at least twice.
Defense attorneys will say Slager felt threatened when Scott grabbed the stun gun after a struggle and pointed it at the officer.
The video of Scott’s death helped trigger a public outcry that flared after the killings of unarmed black men in Missouri, New York and elsewhere.
Slager’s trial is likely to renew national scrutiny on the treatment of minority groups by law enforcement agencies across the United States.
“The whole world is watching these decisions as so many policemen having gotten away with killing a black man,” James Johnson, president of the South Carolina chapter of the National Action Network, said in a phone interview.
About 180 prospective jurors were expected to report on Monday to the Charleston County Judicial Center in neighboring Charleston before a panel of 12 is selected, according to court documents. The pool initially included about 600 people.
Lawyers filed a flurry of motions and documents in recent weeks asking the judge to move the trial out of Charleston, saying publicity surrounding the case and possible protests outside the courthouse could prejudice a jury.
Judge Clifton Newman said last week that he would not sequester jurors because he did not want to keep them away from their homes on Nov. 8, Election Day, and during the holidays if the trial lasts that long, local media reported.
Slager also faces federal charges in a U.S. District Court in Charleston. A trial date has not been set.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Von Ahn)
After getting scorched by Pelosi, Sinclair reporter James Rosen suggests she’s lying about her religion
James Rosen of Sinclair Broadcasting suggested on Thursday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was lying when she said she does not hate people because her Catholic faith teaches her not to.
Rosen caught the Speaker's wrath at her weekly press conference, when he shouted a question about her "hating" President Donald Trump.
Pelosi responded by coming back to the podium and dressing down Rosen. She noted that Catholics are taught not to hate.
Later, the Sinclair reporter showed up at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-CA) weekly press conference.
Trumpland’s simmering anger at George Conway finally erupts into a bitter public feud
George Conway, husband of senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, has been a known vocal critic of the Trump administration for a large portion of Donald Trump's presidency, and his anti-Trump Twitter rants were mostly ignored from within the White House. Now, his clear ideological conflict with his wife and her boss seems to finally be boiling over as a Trump official surprised observers by pushing back against his comments.
In a tweet this Wednesday, Trump's 2020 campaign manager took a shot at Conway for promoting an anti-Trump book.
Mitch McConnell may let Republicans write Senate impeachment rules without Democratic votes
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is plotting to shut out Democrats on impeachment if a bipartisan compromise on rules for the trial can't be reached.
The Kentucky Republican said this week that he hopes to reach an agreement on rules for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, but he's also readying a "backup plan" in case he can't reach an agreement with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, reported Vanity Fair.
“The first thing Sen. Schumer and I will do is see if there’s a possibility of agreement on a procedure,” McConnell said. “That failing, I would probably come back to my own members and say, ‘Okay, can 51 of us agree how we’re going to handle this?’”