South Carolina ex-policeman's murder
trial opens with jury selection
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[November 01, 2016]
By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - The murder
trial of a former South Carolina policeman who shot an unarmed black
motorist last year opened on Monday with jury selection, putting the
national spotlight back on a case that triggered national concerns about
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 showed him firing eight times at the back of Walter Scott,
who was fleeing from him.
About 180 potential jurors were ordered to appear for roll call on
Monday at Charleston County Judicial Center for Slager's trial, court
Prospective jurors are expected to return on Tuesday for continued
questioning as attorneys for both sides seek a panel of 12 for the
Slager, 34, 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 a dangerous neighborhood when he stopped Scott,
50, for driving a car with a broken brake light.After Scott got out of
his car and ran, 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 reignited 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
[to top of second column]
Former police officer Michael Slager walks to the defense table
during a bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. September
10, 2015. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Outside the Charleston County Judicial Center on Monday, Scott
Garland, 54, a retired Air Force sergeant who lives in Charleston,
held a sign that read "Blue Lives Matter" on one side and "Thin Blue
Line" on the other.
"It's just to show the cops that there's somebody on their side,"
Garland said. "They are a thin blue line between us and the
Defense lawyers have asked the judge to move the trial out of
Charleston, saying publicity surrounding the case and possible
protests outside the courthouse could prejudice a jury.
(Editing by Alan Crosby and Cynthia Osterman)
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