WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, issued the following statement following an appellate court’s decision to uphold the conviction and 20-year sentence of a white former South Carolina policeman for the shooting death of Walter Scott.
“The 4th Circuit’s unanimous decision upholding the conviction and sentence of Michael Slager is a powerful reminder about the critical role that the federal government must play in holding officers accountable for unlawful and deadly conduct that violates the civil rights of Americans. The federal government obtained a conviction and sentence that sends a strong message to other law enforcement officers who have grown accustomed to acting with impunity. While today’s decision rejecting Slager’s appeal won’t bring Walter Scott back, it provides some small measure of justice for communities and families that are too often impacted by the tragic and fatal shootings of unarmed African Americans.
“There are times when state action is not enough and this is a case in which the federal government needed to step in because of the egregiousness of the facts and the fatal outcome. At every stage, this case has been a powerful example of why federal prosecution is so critical in the context of police shootings. Moving forward, it is critical that the U.S. Justice Department use its strong muscle and substantial resources to confront our nation’s police shooting crisis, and seek significant jail time for convicted officers who use deadly force without basis.”