Former North Charleston, S.C., police officer Michael Slager faces anywhere between two years and life in prison for the shooting death of Walter Scott in April 2015. Attorneys rested their cases Wednesday and handed the case to the jury, which could convict Slager on a murder or manslaughter charge, or acquit if they determine he acted reasonably under the circumstances. Image courtesy Charleston County Detention Center
CHARLESTON, S.C., Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Prosecutors and a defense attorney for a former South Carolina police officer accused of criminally shooting an unarmed motorist to death last year rested their cases Wednesday, sending the case to the jury to decide.
In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor Scarlett Wilson argued that Walter Scott, who was shot dead during a traffic stop in April 2015, was not free from guilt -- but did nothing to deserve getting shot in the back by former North Charleston officer Michael Slager as he tried to run away.
"He was trying to get away ... He should be sitting there [at the defendant's table] right now, on trial for resisting arrest," she told jurors.
Slager's defense, conversely, argued that the news media has misrepresented the facts of the case and provided a "false narrative" of events.
"You hear the media on Twitter say 'unarmed man,'" defense attorney Andy Savage argued. "Did Slager know that? Did he have a chance to frisk him? Mr. Scott was shot for what he did on April 4."
Jurors, who received the case around 6 p.m. Wednesday, can convict Slager, 35, on either murder or voluntary manslaughter charges -- or acquit the former officer if they decide he acted reasonably under the circumstances of his attempted arrest of Scott.
The potential prison time for a conviction varies greatly. Slager could be given a sentence of 30 years to life if found guilty of murder. Manslaughter carries a punishment of between two and 30 years.
Slager pulled Scott over in North Charleston on April 4, 2015, for a malfunctioning brake light. At one point during the stop, Scott attempted to run away. The police report states that Slager zapped Scott with a Taser, but that it did not subdue him. A physical confrontation continued and Slager ultimately drew his handgun and fired eight times.
Five of the shots struck the 50-year-old Scott -- three in the back, one in the buttocks and one hit an ear.
Dashboard video footage, as well as cellphone video by a witness, sparked outcry nationwide because it purported to show Scott being killed as he ran away from Slager -- a potential blow to claims of self-defense.