Judy Scott, center, Walter Scott’s mother, is comforted by her son Rodney Scott, as the family attorneys, Chris Stewart, left, and Justin Bamberg, right, hold a press conference after the mistrial was declared for the Michael Slager trial Monday Dec. 5, 2016, in Charleston, S.C. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mic Smith
“This is not a win for Michael Slager and this is not a loss for the Scott family.”
On Monday, more than a year and a half after a North Charleston police officer shot and killed 50-year-old Walter Scott during a routine traffic stop, a jury failed to convict the officer for murder.
Despite a video showing Officer Michael Slager shooting Scott at least five times in the back as he ran away from the officer, one juror refused to convict.
Justin Bamberg, an attorney representing Scott’s family in the litigation, said the mistrial is disappointing, but he understands the difficulties of convicting law enforcement officers like Slager and knows that the Scott family will ultimately see justice.
“This is not a win for Michael Slager and this is not a loss for the Scott family,” Bamberg told ThinkProgress shortly after the mistrial was announced. “This is just a delay in justice.”
“We firmly believe that at the end of the day, there will be justice,” he added. “What’s done in the dark often comes to light.”
Though very few police officers have ever been convicted for murder — more than 200 South Carolina officers fired weapons in the five years before Scott’s death and none have been convicted — Bamberg said this case is unique because of the bystander’s cellphone video that clearly shows the egregious nature of Scott’s shooting.
Immediately after the mistrial, the South Carolina solicitor confirmed that she plans to retry the case. The federal trial is also set to begin in early 2017.
“Michael Slager is still facing 30 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Bamberg said. “It’s just going to take a little bit longer for us to get there.”
Bamberg, also a Democratic South Carolina state lawmaker, introduced legislation to outlaw the quota system in South Carolina, which attorneys on both sides claimed significantly contributed to Scott’s death. Slager and other North Charleston police officers were required to make a certain number of investigatory traffic stops each day; with a greater numbers of stops comes the greater likelihood that one will escalate into violence. The bill was signed into law last year.
Though that bill and body camera legislation have been steps in the right direction, Bamberg said that the last 20 months have been hard on the Scott family. His brother, Anthony, told ThinkProgress last year that he and Walter were Dallas Cowboys fans and that he misses watching and discussing football with his brother every weekend.
Despite this week’s setback, Bamberg and Anthony both remain hopeful that Walter did not die in vain. Monday’s outcome knocked many people down, Bamberg said, but they landed on their backs. When you land on your back, as long as you can look up, you can get up to keep fighting.
“There is not a soul who has a soul who thinks that what Officer Slager did was not wrong,” Bamberg said. “He can run and he can hide, but we’re of the opinion that there will be no escaping true justice in this case.”