CHARLESTON, S.C. — The brother of an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by a white South Carolina police officer says the murder indictment against Michael Slager is a small step on the road to justice.
“It’s a good victory for the family,” Anthony Scott said during an interview broadcast on the NBC “Today” show Tuesday. “We’re taking baby steps, but we know it’s all to get to one point, and that’s to get the justice for my brother.”
A Charleston County grand jury on Monday found enough evidence to prosecute Slager, a former North Charleston police officer, on a murder charge. His shooting of a fleeing Walter Scott following a traffic stop on April 4 was recorded on a bystander’s cellphone.
Anthony Scott said during the interview that justice for the family is a murder charge, a guilty verdict and a life sentence for Slager.
Slager, 33, faces 30 years to life in prison without parole if convicted. The death penalty doesn’t apply because there are no aggravating circumstances, such as robbery or kidnapping, said prosecutor Scarlett Wilson who announced the indictment.
Wilson said no trial date has yet been sent.
“I don’t think that I’m ready for it to go into trial just yet,” Anthony Scott said in the interview. “But we’ll be ready when the time comes.”
Wilson said the murder charge requires prosecutors to prove what is referred to as “malice aforethought.” That’s a form of premeditation, but Wilson explains that it doesn’t mean Slager would have had to think about killing Scott for a certain period of time before firing. She says the state can prove it’s murder “as long as malice exists in the heart and mind at the time before and during the killing.”
Slager’s defence lawyer, Andy Savage, said he won’t comment “until we have an opportunity to fully evaluate the state’s case and to compare it with our own investigation.”
Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Scott’s family, said he plans to file a wrongful death civil suit against North Charleston, most likely by the end of July, and will keep close watch on the criminal prosecution meanwhile.
Slager has said he initially tried to stun Scott with his Taser when both men scuffled over the stun gun and he fired his handgun at Scott in self-defence.
The video shows the men briefly scuffling before Scott runs away and the officer fires at Scott’s back.
The charge against Slager is the fourth in recent months in South Carolina involving white officers shooting at unarmed black men. One ended in a mistrial in January and is set for retrial next week.