Pursuit of federal prosecution of the former North Charleston, N.C., policeman who shot and killed motorist Walter Scott could be in limbo when a new administration takes office in the White House in January.
On Tuesday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence spoke with MSNBC and was noncommittal about the prospect of Michael Slager standing trial on federal charges in the case of Scott, who he fatally wounded in April 2015 shortly after a traffic stop over a broken taillight.
A Charleston, N.C., jury remained deadlocked, due to a single juror’s refusal to vote for a murder conviction, forcing the presiding judge to declare a mistrial on Monday. State prosecutors vowed to retry Slager. But Slager also faces federal civil rights charges in the case, for which he was indicted last May.
“I think that will be a decision that the attorney general will review and make after Jan. 20,” he said on the network’s “Morning Joe” broadcast, adding that he presumed there would be another state trial.
President-elect Donald Trump has designated Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as his attorney general nominee. But him being chosen for the job has elicited strong reaction over his controversial past racial record, particularly that he was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1985 on those grounds. As head of the Justice Department, Sessions could easily decide not to pursue the federal case agaisnt Slager, even if a new trial finds him guilty.
Slager is the second officer within recent weeks whose court proceedings resulted in a mistrial. Last month, a jury hearing the case of former University of Cincinnati policeman Ray Tensing also deadlocked over whether or not he was guilty of murdering Samuel DuBose in a traffic stop in July 2015. In both cases the officers were White, while the motorists were Black.
The cases alarmed activists and the public in general over what seems to be the repeated shooting deaths of African-Americans at police hands, which has been exacerbated by viral videos of the incidents being spread through social media. During the interview with MSNBC, Pence did not specify whether or not the issue — one of the main ones concerning the Black community — would be addressed in the Slager case or others, referring only to the makeup of the incoming cabinet.
“You see it in the diversity of people that coming to Trump Tower and that he’s sitting down with,” said Pence. “He is committed to being president of all of the people of the United States of America.”
Credit: MSNBC’s Morning Joe
An earlier version of this story appears on JETMag.com.