By Paul Gable
The reaction to the mistrial ruling in the Michael Slager murder case in Charleston last week demonstrates how little understanding and respect many public officials and citizens have for the rule of law and our criminal justice system.
A sampling of the more outrageous statements includes the following:
I also understand that justice is not always delivered by a single jury, in a single courtroom, on a single day. Justice is often a journey. And the journey to justice in the Michael Slager case is far from over…Soon, Mr. Slager will face new trials at the federal and state levels. New juries will be given an opportunity to render a verdict on his actions. Until then, we will continue to pray for our community, for justice, for the family and friends of Walter Scott, and for all those whose lives have been touched by this terrible tragedy.” – Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg
“It is my understanding that there will be, as quickly as possible, a new trial where the Scott family and all of South Carolina will hopefully receive the closure that a verdict brings. Justice is not always immediate, but we must all have faith that it will be served – I certainly do.” – SC Governor Nikki Haley
Haley and Tecklenburg confuse justice with a guilty verdict for Slager.
The chairmen of the state’s two major political parties also got it wrong:
“I am disappointed that justice for Walter Scott and his family has been delayed, but with a new trial coming, I am confident that justice will not be denied. … This is a test for our justice system, a test that the nation must not fail.” – Jaime Harrison, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party
“An absolute travesty and abdication of justice.” – Matt Moore, chairman of the S.C. Republican Party
Innocent until proven guilty plays no part in the thinking of the above quoted four.
And they were not alone. The coverage of mainstream media and the chatter of social media was full of preconceived notions and a rush to judgement of Slager’s guilt since the former North Charleston policeman’s traffic stop and the subsequent events that led to the death of victim Walter Scott.
The only public agency and city official that got it right was North Charleston and its mayor Keith Summey:
“Until a final decision is rendered, the City of North Charleston and Mayor Summey will continue to refrain from commenting or discussing the case.” – North Charleston spokesman Ryan Johnson
The mistrial ruling means that despite having virtually unlimited tax dollars to spend on the case for experts and whatever else was deemed necessary, prosecutors were unable to convince the 12 citizens on the jury of the guilt of Michael Slager.
Recent reports show at least five members of the jury were undecided about a verdict after five days of jury deliberations.
The resulting mistrial was no travesty or miscarriage of justice. It was the result of deliberations of the 12 people charged with hearing the evidence and making a collective decision. The opinion of the jury is the only opinion that counts and those in the public spotlight, especially public office, should respect that and keep their ignorant opinions to themselves.