let’s not forget the cop who killed walter scott only got sentenced because he pleaded guilty after a mistrial

December 8, 2017
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In an occurrence so infrequent that calling it “rare” doesn’t quite do it justice, Michael Slager, the cop who was filmed by a bystander shooting an unarmed Walter Scott in the back until his death as Scott fled a stop in North Charleston, S.C. in 2015, was sentenced yesterday to 20 years in prison for the act.

Amidst the sea of Black blood and the non-indictments of the state-sanctioned killers who spill it with impunity, this is welcome news, and even a cause for celebration. Scott, it seems, has finally not quite been done justice himself, and perhaps he might finally rest in peace.

But what is peace if the massacre is ongoing, and what is justice if it is only made possible by the unjust? It is important to consider that Michael Slager had already been tried before, resulting in a mistrial when the jury could not agree that shooting a man—on video—in the back—as he was running away—was not self-defense.

The killing led to a $6.5 million settlement with the Scott family, and, still under substantial scrutiny, the state was forced to prepare for a new trial.

However, as reported by the New York Times:

“Jurors signaled that they had come very close to convicting Mr. Slager of manslaughter, and defense lawyers worked out a plea agreement to settle all of the charges Mr. Slager faced in state and federal court.

But the plea agreement with the Justice Department left open a central issue — whether the killing of Mr. Scott had been tantamount to second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. More than semantics was at stake: The answer was crucial to calculating what is known as a guidelines range for sentencing in the federal courts. Until Thursday morning, it was not clear how Judge Norton would rule.”

Essentially, rather than go through another trial, Slager’s team chose to plead guilty, leaving it up to a judge to choose whether to sentence based on manslaughter or murder guidelines. They likely assumed that if the jury couldn’t even agree to manslaughter, the judge would choose the minimum sentencing, especially given that this was the recommendation by the United States Probation Office. But Judge David C. Norton took the unusual step to treat the sentence as if it were for murder charge, which is what it should have easily been in the first place.

No one should have to jump through this many hoops to get a once a millennium ruling in an easily observable incident. This is not the criminal justice system “working” for Black folks. The criminal justice system doesn’t do that. It was made to work against us, and it still is.

And it sometimes works against others just to ensure it goes unchallenged when it comes back to hurt us, hence why just today an Arizona cop was cleared for shooting an unarmed white man on camera 5 times as he crawled away, begging, “Please don’t shoot me.”

Rest in power to Walter Scott, and love to all his family.


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