The families of black men and women killed by police rarely leave the courtroom with a verdict that they believe signifies justice, but Thursday (Dec. 7) was an exception to the rule. Michael Slager, the former South Carolina police officer who shot the unarmed Water Scott in the back as he was running away, was ruled guilty of second-degree murder by a federal judge.
The Guardian reports U.S. District Judge David Norton made the determination on Thursday and said he would hand down a sentence from guidelines that recommend 19 to 24 years in prison.
Slager's attorneys argued in court that he only shot Scott after he reached for his stun gun while they were fighting. But a bystander's video footage saw Slager shooting at Scott eight times, as Slager was running away from him. After the shooting itself, Slager placed his stun gun by Scott's body, leading some to believe that he was framing Scott to boost his own story of self-defense.
The video sparked Black Lives Matter protests around the country, with the incident being used as an example of the police brutality that activists are fighting to end.
Slager was initially charged with murder, but a state judge declared a mistrial when jurors became deadlocked. A retrial was called off in May 2016 when Slager pled guilty to violating Scott's civil rights, resulting in prosecutors dropping the murder charges as part of the plea deal. He has been in jail since then, serving time for the civil rights plea.
But the federal judge found Slager guilty of murder, along with obstruction of justice for statements he made to state police after the shooting.
Scott's mother, Judy Scott, said that she forgave Slager, and that she would pray for him and his family. But the victim's youngest son, Miles Scott, said he misses watching football with his dad, and has had difficulty sleeping since his father was killed.
"I miss my father every day," Miles Scott said. "I would like you to sentence the defendant to the strongest sentence the law allows because he murdered my one and only father."