By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – The retrial of white former police officer Michael Slager, charged with the murder of an unarmed black man after a 2015 traffic stop in North Charleston, South Carolina, was postponed by a judge on Tuesday until August.
The 35-year-old ex-cop had been due to stand trial again on March 1 for the shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott. Slager’s initial trial ended with a hung jury on Dec. 5 after four weeks of testimony in a Charleston courtroom.
Defense attorneys requested a delay over concerns about the availability of a key witness. They also are preparing for Slager’s federal trial on alleged civil rights violations stemming from the shooting, a case scheduled to start with jury selection in U.S. District Court in Charleston on May 1.
Slager, who attended the hearing, is free on bail while the charges are pending.
The case drew national attention and renewed focus on police shootings of unarmed black men after a bystander’s cell phone video showed Slager firing eight times at Scott’s back as Scott ran from him after getting pulled over in April 2015 for a broken tail light.
Last month, a jury of 11 white people and one black man was unable to reach a unanimous verdict after deliberating over four days whether Slager should be found guilty of murder or voluntary manslaughter.
Slager testified during the trial that he felt “total fear” for his safety before shooting Scott and hitting him with five bullets.
Scott’s family, who attended Tuesday’s hearing, did not object to the trial being delayed until Aug. 28. Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said the retrial would be shorter, estimating it would take about two weeks.
(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)