iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Closing arguments are underway Wednesday afternoon in the state trial of former police officer Michael Slager, who is accused of murdering an unarmed black man in South Carolina last year.
Slager, who is white, is accused of killing Walter Scott at a traffic stop on April 4, 2015, in North Charleston while Slager was an officer with the city’s police department.
Witness video that surfaced shortly after the deadly encounter appears to show the moment Slager fatally shot Scott as he ran away. The video garnered national attention, propelling Slager into the spotlight.
Slager has pleaded not guilty to murder. His attorneys have said the witness video doesn’t show the whole struggle between Slager and Scott, and does not give the perspective of events from Slager’s point of view.
In this state trial, the jury can now also consider a voluntary manslaughter charge, officials told ABC News Wednesday. The voluntary manslaughter charge was requested by the prosecution and the judge allowed it based on testimony he heard during the trial.
“The court must let the jury decide if the force used was reasonable,” Judge Clifton Newman said Wednesday. “That’s the essence of the case.”
In the prosecution’s closing arguments, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson described murder and voluntarily manslaughter. She said murder involves malice, which “has to be in the mind before the shots are fired.” She said malice is a feeling and an emotion. Voluntarily manslaughter, meanwhile, “is an unlawful killing in the heat of passion,” Wilson said.
Wilson said jurors must decide the difference between heat of passion and malice “because from a distance they can look the same.”
She also discussed reasonable doubt.
“There are a lot of things that ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ does not mean,” Wilson said. “The judge will give you an instruction and you’ll see that it’s the kind of doubt that [makes] you hesitant to act.”
“It means that it’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt when we have proven our case, not beyond every doubt, not beyond a shadow of a doubt, but a reasonable doubt,” Wilson said.
She said reason is used because “in life, it’s almost impossible to prove things beyond all doubt 100 percent.”
Wilson told the jurors to look at reasonable doubt as proof that leaves them “firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt.”
Wilson closed by praising the jury.
“Y’all have been remarkably alert. Y’all have been remarkably attentive,” she said. “We know that we made the right decision. … We know that you can do this. You can get it right.”
The defense is addressing the jury now.
Ahead of closing arguments, jurors spent Wednesday morning at the scene of the shooting.
On Monday, Slager testified in his own defense, saying that Scott was a threat and that he kept shooting him until the threat was over.
Slager also faces a federal trial, which is scheduled for next year.
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