North Charleston Patrolman 1st Class Michael T. Slager will not face the possibility of the death penalty in connection with the shooting of Walter Scott because the circumstances don’t meet the criteria necessary under S.C. law, Charleston County’s chief prosecutor said Monday.
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she carefully reviewed the state’s death penalty statute, which lists 22 aggravating circumstances that can trigger the state to seek lethal punishment. Those include murders committed during kidnapping, robbery, drug trafficking and a host of other circumstances. None applied in this case, she said.
“Under South Carolina law, this case is not death penalty-eligible,” said Wilson, whose office will be in charge of prosecuting Slager. “There are aggravating circumstances which can take a murder case from being a maximum of life to death being the maximum sentence. None of those factors are present in this case.”
Scott’s killing was caught on video a little more than a week ago, triggering Slager’s firing and his arrest on a murder charge. The video shows Slager firing eight shots at the 50-year-old man’s back as he attempted to flee from Slager after a traffic stop. Scott died after being wounded five times.
Slager is currently being held at the Charleston County jail.
With the death penalty off the table, Slager faces a potential penalty of 30 years to life if convicted.
Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage, had no comment on Wilson’s statements.
Charleston School of Law Associate Professor Miller Shealy, a former federal prosecutor, said Wilson made the right call given the facts of the case. South Carolina’s law is typical of state death penalty statutes, setting circumstances and limits on when the ultimate punishment can be applied, he said.
“Basically, murder alone is not enough,” Shealy said. “It has to be murder plus something else, usually murder plus another serious violent offense.”
None of those factors spelled out in the statute appear to meet the facts of Slager’s case, Shealy said, “I don’t see where it fits,” he said.