On Thursday, former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison for second-degree murder and obstruction of justice in the shooting of Walter Scott in 2015.
ABC News reports that Slager was ruled guilty by U.S. District Judge David Norton, who recommended a 19- to 24-year sentence. When Slager was initially charged, he plead not guilty. That case was declared a mistrial in 2016, with only one juror standing in the way of a guilty verdict.
The verdict was only handed down after Slager plead guilty to violating Scott’s civil rights, according to The New York Times, which shifted the charge from involuntary manslaughter to second-degree murder. Ultimately, Judge Norton concluded that Slager’s use of force was “reckless, wanton and inappropriate,” and concluded it was a murder. Prosecutors pushed for a life sentence, but 20 years is still more than the 10 to 12-and-a-half years he could have received for manslaughter.
During the first case, Slager and his lawyers maintained that he shot Scott in self-defense, but footage captured by a young man named Feidin Santana showed that Scott was unarmed and running away with his back turned, at some distance from the officer. The case was rightfully publicized as another example of systemic police violence against black men and women, one of many cases where justice is rarely, if ever, served. Slager is one of few instances in which an officer shot who someone while on duty has been prosecuted.
At the conclusion of the trail, Scott’s mother, Judy Scott, said she forgave Slager for his crime.
“I forgive you, and I pray for you that you will repent and let Jesus come into your life,” Ms. Scott told the officer who killed her son. “Just as you are, he will forgive you.”