Michael T. Slager, a former police officer who shot an unarmed black motorist in the back over a broken brake light, was indicted on Wednesday.
The Scott case is the first recently to trigger a federal indictment for the deprivation of civil rights.
“It’s fairly rare,” said Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina. “There are only about half a dozen cases in which police officers have faced federal civil rights charges for a shooting. The reason it’s so rare is the burden of proof — requiring prosecutors to show that it was a willful act, with specific intent. It’s not easy to show what was in someone’s mind.”