Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Attorneys for Michael Slager attempt to limit testimony in federal trial

Defense seeks to stop mention of evidence planting and Scott family suffering

Posted by Dustin Waters on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 4:27 PM

click to enlarge Michael Slager faces a retrial for state charges in August following a federal trial in May - GRACE BEAHN/POST AND COURIER
  • Grace Beahn/Post and Courier
  • Michael Slager faces a retrial for state charges in August following a federal trial in May
Attorneys representing Michael Slager during his upcoming federal trial filed a slew of requests Wednesday aimed at limiting what language can and cannot be used in the courtroom. In addition to prohibiting attorneys from referring to former North Charleston officer as “defendant,” the defense has also asked that Walter Scott, the man Slager shot following a traffic stop not be described as a “victim.”

Slager’s federal civil rights trial is set to begin in May, with the former officer facing charges related to Scott’s death and misleading investigators. Slager has testified that Scott attempted to turn the officer’s Taser against him following a brief struggle, thus justifying the use of deadly force. Eyewitness video of the shooting shows the moments after the struggle as Scott was shot five times while fleeing Slager. The former officer also faces a state retrial on the charge of murder after a jury was unable to come to a consensus on his guilt or innocence.

Knowing the important role that language can play in a trial, defense attorneys have presented a federal judge with a list of terms and descriptors that they wish to have barred from court proceedings.

Slager’s attorneys have requested that prosecutors and witnesses refrain from referring to Scott’s death as a “homicide,” stating that “There is a great danger of unfair prejudice in using the term homicide because the general public, including jury members, may believe the term is synonymous with wrongful killing or implies legal culpability. However, in South Carolina, ‘the testimony that an individual died from a homicide simply means that he or she died by the act, procurement, or omission of another without regard to the criminality of the killing or the culpability of the killer.’”

The defense is also calling on a federal judge to prohibit any testimony regarding the “alleged suffering” of Walter Scott or his family, the $6.5 million settlement between Scott’s family and the City of North Charleston, as well as Slager’s actions immediately following Scott’s shooting. In the court documents filed Wednesday, the defense argues that any mention of the fact that Slager did not perform CPR on Scott after the shooting would only serve to “inflame the jury,” as would comments that claim Slager attempted to “plant” his Taser near Scott’s body.

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