It was no surprise to some legal experts that, despite shocking video evidence, a nearly all-White jury deadlocked on charges against the White former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager who fatally shot Walter Scott, a Black man who was unarmed.
The Huffington Post analyzed the 13 police shooting trials since August 2014 that juries decided. Majority-White juries decided all but two of those cases, which The Post suggests many have influenced the results.
Few police officers involved in fatal shootings ever face criminal charges. And of those who face a jury, seldom is there a guilty verdict. Why are White-dominated juries unlikely to convict police officers? They are more willing to give officers the benefit of any doubt.
The news outlet pointed to a Cato Institute survey that found 68 percent of Whites held favorable views of their local police department, compared to 40 percent of Blacks who shared that view. There’s a similar disparity on the question of whether law enforcement teats all races equally.
In the 13 cases The Post reviewed, eight involved a police killing of a person of color, 12 of the officers were White, and at least two-thirds of the jurors were White in nine of the trials.
Jury composition seldom represented the racial mix of the local community in the 13 cases. The Post pointed to the Slager case as a perfect example. North Charleston is nearly 50 percent Black, yet only one of the 12 jurors was African-American.
Slager’s legal team, it’s believed, sought a nearly all-White jury, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has banned attorneys from using race or gender as a reason to eliminate potential jurors.
The former officer’s defense team used seven of its nine juror strikes on minority candidates, but denied taking race into consideration, the Charleston City Paper reported. Violations of the high court’s ban are hard to prove.
Although strong evidence suggests that White jurors will side with law enforcement, the Huffington Post concluded that there’s no clear connection between the racial composition of a jury and the likelihood of a guilty verdict.
In its analysis, the news outlet found that majority-White juries found officers guilty in four of five cases that ended in convictions.