This was what I was afraid of. It is also why Michael Slager, who is guilty as hell, didn’t plead guilty despite slam-dunk, irrefutable evidence that he executed African-American Walter Scott as he was fleeing arrest last year. It is why I argued that if Slager ethically cared more about the law, his profession, his community and his country than he did about literally getting away with murder, he was ethically obligated to plead guilty so this couldn’t and wouldn’t happen.
A single juror told the judge in the Slager trial last week that he can’t find the ex-cop guilty. In a letter to the court, the would-be Henry Fonda said, “I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict…I cannot and will not change my mind.”
The jury foreperson confirmed in a separate note that it was only one juror who was “having issues” convicting Slager, who pulled over Scott’s car in North Charleston, South Carolina last year, and ended up shooting him in the back while a bystander recorded the killing on video. Circuit Judge Clifton Newman sent the jury back for more deliberation, and they are expected to report on their progress at 9 a.m. Monday.
The lone juror holding out for innocence against eleven wanting to convict is celebrated as a courageous and system-defining stand in “Twelve Angry Men,” but it strains our faith in the system when the facts are like they are in this case. Nonetheless, the possibility of a not guilty verdict in the supposedly open-and-shut case is essential to the integrity of our system’s principle that even the most obviously guilty deserve a competent defense and a trial before a jury of their peers. Either we believe, as it has been said by many, that it is better for 100 guilty defendants to go free than for a single innocent citizen to be convicted, then we have to respect and accept the result when a lone juror seems to violate common sense and law.
Is Slager “more guilty” than O.J.? I could argue that they both deserve punishment, but if one deserves it more than they other, I’d pick Simpson, who killed two people, and wasn’t attempting a lawful arrest. (I could also argue that this kind of shooting by a police officer deserves a harsher punishment, because of his profession and his duties to society.) However we feel, we cannot condemn the lone juror without endorsing summary justice and show trials. If we believe in fair trials, we must believe in not guilty verdicts when a defendant seem obviously guilty, and lone jurors who cannot be convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Taking the other approach—emotion, anger and irrational hate—will be the likes of Elie Mystal, who, I think it is fair to say, needs a vacation. In an embarrassing post on the legal gossip site “Above the Law,” the African-American pundit intentionally misleads his readers by leaving out the key fact that it is only one juror who isn’t convinced by the overwhelming case against Slager, in order to indulge in an anti-white hate-fest:
Remember when I said that Dylann Roof, the alleged Charleston Church shooter, might get off because I wasn’t sure that you could find 12 people in South Carolina to say that killing black people is illegal? Remember when you thought I was being hyperbolic or joking or otherwise thinking too little of white people in America? A South Carolina jury said on Friday that it was deadlocked in the case of Michael Slager, the police officer who shot Walter Scott in the back while Scott was fleeing from a traffic stop.
You see, Mystal is a racist, straight up. One, single, eccentric juror about whose reasoning and motives we know nothing, is all it takes for the him to conclude that whites are incapable of convicting a white defendant of killing a black man. (Well, Mystal has revealed himself as an anti-white bigot before.) Mystal doesn’t even know the race of the lone juror. Never mind. He knows.
More from Elie…
Walter Scott was murdered. On video. In broad daylight. The only question is whether the murder of black people by police is illegal. The South Carolina jury cannot reach consensus on that point. White people cannot achieve broad-based agreement that the murder of black people is wrong.
This section is signature significance for a racist jerk. Mystal has no idea if the single juror involved doesn’t feel, and many do, that an officer should be able to shoot fleeing suspects, white or black, as the law once permitted them to do. He doesn’t know if the lone juror believes that this was a heat of passion killing, or even temporary insanity. Maybe he thinks that police officers face so many stressful encounters that when one makes a mistake, even a fatal one, he should not be convicted of a crime. There is no evidence whatsoever that either the victim’s race or the officer’s race was a factor in the incident. Never mind. Mystal assumes it.
He goes on…
The jury deadlock says way more about the state of white America than it does about the actions of Michel Slager. You debase yourselves if you let this man walk free. You get that, right? Letting cops who murder black people go free has nothing to do with the black community, and everything to do with the moral failure of white people in America.
More racism, bigotry, hate and bias. This juror doesn’t speak for me, represent me, or in any way stand for or represent whites, Americans, South Carolinians or jurors. If someone like, say, Donald Trump,was to talk as Mystal is about the Somali terrorist at Ohio State speaking for the “state of Muslim America,” he would be rightly condemned, and Mystal would be near the head of the mob, pitchfork in hand. Yet he spews this hateful garbage. America doesn’t debase itself if it lets Michael Slager walk free. It debases itself if it locks up Michael Slager without a fair trial, which means, and always means, and must mean, that a guilty man might walk free. This guy is writing for a legal news website? He doesn’t comprehend this cornerstone concept of the justice system!
Then Elie really melts down:
I already know who you are, I already know what you are, and I already know that my job is to avoid detection by your terrorist forces. #BlackLivesMatter, to me. I don’t give a flying f**k if they matter to you, because I already know they don’t. I already recognize your system of justice as a farce. I already hold your police in contempt. I already know how to hide in plain sight from the people who hunt me. Being unable to convict a cop who shot a fleeing man reflects on YOU. You are the ones who have to go to sleep at night, with new knowledge of how evil this country has always been.
All of this, because a single juror, for reasons unknown, has chosen to exercise his right to vote for the result the entire system exists to allow. In order for juries to protect due process and justice for the innocent, we must accept the inevitability of no justice for the guilty in some cases. It is a difficult concept, and understandable that the general public often has a hard time accepting it. For a legal writer to find it so incomprehensible, however, is absurd.